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Rally for Education

A Rally for Education will be held from 4-5 p.m. on Tuesday, Mar. 20, 2012 at HFM BOCES’ Johnstown campus.

Rally bannerParents and students, teachers and administrators, community and business leaders will unite with a single voice calling for equitable treatment for the schools and students in the HFM BOCES region. It’s time for all people concerned about the future for their children and public education in upstate New York to speak up.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature are nearing an agreement on a state budget for 2012. That budget tragically underfunds public education, particularly poor rural schools in upstate New York.

The state has cut or frozen aid to schools for the past five years. Each year, area schools have been forced to trim, and then slash programs and staff in the effort to preserve a sound basic education to their students.

Looking toward the 2012-13 school year, area schools face multi-million dollar gaps in already lean budgets brought about by another year of frozen state aid, punishing Gap Elimination Adjustments that take money back from schools, and a new tax levy cap that limits the amount schools can raise from local property taxes.

Most schools have already, or are poised to deplete their reserve funds. The “rainy day” funds are used up and the storm has just begun.

Schools now face the unavoidable decision to cut kindergarten, arts, music, librarians, counselors, AP courses, all sports and extracurricular activities.

Governor Cuomo pronounced himself “lobbyist for the students,” but upstate schools are teetering on the brink and our students are paying the price.

The Rally for Education will send a loud message to Albany that underfunding our children’s education is unacceptable and wrong. State legislators were elected to represent the people – and children – in their districts. A voter registration drive at the rally will provide citizens with the tools to elect representatives that will be accountable to their constituents.

Where’s the help for today’s students?

The tax levy cap legislation passed last summer with the promise of mandate relief. Today a Mandate Relief Commission tours the state, holding hearings and collecting data, but even state legislators admit to skepticism about the final results.

Acknowledging the economic climate that burdens the state and local taxpayers, school leaders and parents ask the question: What about today’s students?

The quality of education should not be determined by zip code. Without help now from the region’s elected representatives, our children face larger class sizes and far fewer educational opportunities.

The governor’s proposed budget set aside $250 million for competitive grants to high performing schools, grants most of our poor local schools do not even qualify for.

We demand that the $250 million grant allocation be redirected to help rural upstate schools keep their doors open another year.

The governor’s proposed budget includes a Gap Elimination Adjustment that takes back state aid from every school district to help the state fill its massive deficit. The GEA formula takes the most from the neediest districts. HFM BOCES 15 school districts are set to lose $16.8 million to the GEA formula in 2012-13.

We demand that the Gap Elimination Adjustment formula be changed to stop penalizing the neediest districts.

Schools now face elimination of all non-mandated programs, including kindergarten. Today’s kindergarten is an academic starting point for the skill-building children need to succeed in first grade and beyond, as well as an academic bridge between federally funded Universal Pre-K and first grade. Depriving children of this foundational year holds them back, essentially handicapping them in their academic growth. Recovering from this missed year will require extraordinary future efforts by students and teachers alike.

Loss of kindergarten in struggling poor, rural schools also widens the educational gap between those schools and wealthier districts, putting upstate students at a life-long disadvantage.

We demand that the state fully fund kindergarten for all students. It is less expensive for society to fund education than to pay for an undereducated adult.

Board of Cooperative Educational Services
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