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Sign of hope for poor school districts

By Lombardo David
Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Small and rural needy school districts have reason to be hopeful about increased funding in the wake of remarks from Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning.

The governor stressed the differences in needs and responsibilities between school districts in wealthy communities and school districts in distressed communities following the unveiling at the state Capitol of his Education Reform Commission's preliminary recommendations. He made the argument that schools in needy areas are tasked with far more responsibilities than schools in more affluent areas.

Because of these varied functions, Cuomo said they should be defined differently so their needs could be met appropriately.

"Don't compare their costs and don't compare their staffing, because they're apples and oranges," he said, adding that the investment in school districts representing needy areas saves money down the road.

These observations are being regarded by some as recognition by the governor that the way state aid is allocated should be changed.

"To me, it sounds like the governor is recognizing that the job urban school districts have to do is very different than other places," Schenectady City School District Superintendent Laurence Spring said. "I hope that would translate to an examination of how the state is progressing toward full funding of school districts."

Schenectady and a collection of other small city school districts in the state argue their funding is well below what is required by law.

Cuomo said these types of schools need a new name to illustrate all that they do. Spring said this is the right sentiment because defining the need is half of the funding battle.

Spring and other advocates for the city of Schenectady made a video voicing the need for increased state aid to the city. The video is available below.

State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, said the remarks from Cuomo are encouraging for poorer districts he represents.

"We'll have to wait and see what he has in the State of the State, but it sounds very interesting," Farley said, highlighting the potential benefit for a school district like Schenectady.

The state's budget process begins with Cuomo, so he said it will be up to him to get the ball moving. If the governor signals a willingness to tweak the formula for allocating aid or some other change that benefits needy districts, Farley said he would be ready to run with any provision that helped kids in his district.

A full version of this story will appear in the Thursday edition of The Daily Gazette.

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