Public schools fight for promised state education funding

Mar 10, 2014

Across the state, school board associations are rallying against a reduction in state aid. Tonight, the Chautauqua County and Allegany Cattaraugus County Association of School Boards and the Southwestern and Western Region Parent Teachers Associations will hold a rally in Ellicottville. 

As part of our Focus on Education initiative, WBFO's Eileen Buckley reports on how some say the funding gap will continue to threaten a student’s chance to succeed.

"They're actually being starved for funds by the state of New York.

Rick Timbs is executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium.  He has been traveling the state to discuss a flaw in the funding formula.  In the 2007-2008 school year, the formula was put into place that was suppose to increase state aid for school districts by about $5-billion over the next four years.  Timbs says it's time to call on the Governor to eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment.

"We're not just asking for more money. That's not actually it. We don't want to just pour more money into education as some people claim," said Timbs. "There is probably a significant amount of money that should be in this system that was promised to be in this system, but the distribution of those funds has been terrible." 

In our region more than $236-million in promised state education aid has been withheld from public schools in the last four years. Timbs noted the State has shifted its budget burden to districts. He said the cuts are killing school districts.

"School superintendents have done what they can, but now it's time for many hands to make light work," said Timbs.  "The problem that comes from Albany and what they've go to do is insist that their state legislators and the governor provide the funds that were promised and needed by these school districts."

The funding constraint indirectly affects programs like BOCES.   BOCES doesn't receive direct aid -- but it trickles down from the funding cuts to districts.

David O'Rourke is the district superintendent for Erie 2 Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES. He tells WBFO there remains an "inequitable distribution" of state aid and "divestment" in public education.   O'Rourke noted that with all the interest in Common Core, the funding story isn't being told. 

Timbs will lead a panel discussion with school district superintendents and students Monday at 7 p.m. at the Ellicottville Central School gym to shed light on this funding gap.