Opinion Editorial on Education
OUR VIEW: Close to the edge
In times of economic strife, the directive given is usually “Do more with less.” When it comes to school districts however, it’s do less with even less. Many school districts are facing fiscal insolvency in the next few years. Recently, more than a thousand people converged on the Columbia High School campus in East Greenbush to learn more about what they can do about it.
This was the first time school districts in the region have come together in such large numbers. And they were not alone. Elected officials such as state Sens. Cecilia Tkaczyk and Kathleen Marchione attended, as did members of the Assembly including Steve McLaughlin, Peter Lopez and Didi Barrett. We are gratified that our elected officials took the time to listen. They need to hear first-hand what is happening in schools across the region.
Many school districts have seen the amount of school aid drop year after year. This year, despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledging to boost state aid, that will be the story for most area districts. This is because the state aid has been reduced for the present year for some districts, so while it appears that the district will be receiving an increase in aid over the initial budget numbers, in reality it is a decrease.
School districts have made tough choices, balancing cutting programs with eliminating positions. It is not an easy task, especially when there is no control over some expenses, such as pension costs.
Cuts can only go so far. As Dr. Richard Timbs put it, “The problem is, I can’t cut the same person more than once. We are running out of options.” Cutting programs leaves few options for students.
Bob Horan, superintendent of the Schodack Central School District, said “We’ve always told our students if they worked hard, they’d be rewarded and be able to compete against students around the state,” Horan said. “But now I’m concerned about them being able to compete locally because of all the programs we can no longer offer them.”
On Monday, there will be a follow-up event, hosted this time by the Niskayuna Central School District. This forum will focus on teaching effective advocacy strategies and techniques. Robert N. Lowry Jr., deputy director for advocacy research and communications for the New York State Council of Superintendents, will lead the event.
A financial and educational crisis is approaching. We hope that, once again, representatives from area districts attend the next session in order to address the problems that face not only the districts, but the communities as well. Steps need to be taken now to avoid total disaster later.