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Educators concerned over state funding

Cuomo touts focus on classrooms in speech, GEA absent from remarks

— Local school leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have clashed on several issues during his three years in office, with state funding to schools being a major spot of contention. Cuomo’s recent State of the State address left some educators wondering if this year would bring any substantial change.

“I think the big issue that was not addressed, and I think everyone across the state was looking for, is what is he going to do about GEA (Gap Elimination Adjustment),” South Colonie Central School District Superintendent Jonathan Buhner said.

The Gap Elimination Adjustment, commonly known as GEA, has left local school districts with less state funding than they received six years ago. The GEA was introduced in 2010 when the state was deep in a fiscal crisis with the hope that it would close the budget gap, something Cuomo said has been accomplished. Education advocates statewide are now asking that the GEA be eliminated and funding restored to schools already struggling with the property tax levy cap.

Bethlehem Central School District Superintendent Thomas Douglas said he was “happy” to hear the state is projected to have a surplus, but questioned if the surplus included restored education funding.

If the GEA is in place, Douglas said, it’s not a true surplus.

“If he’s saying he’s running a surplus, I would like to see the detail of whether or not he has restored that and now has a surplus,” Douglas said. “If he hasn’t restored that, how do we have a surplus when you are not funding education fully with what’s required by the budget.”

North Colonie Central School District Superintendent D. Joseph Corr said he was looking for “a more aggressive approach” to eliminating the GEA, but said the governor does realize the importance of education.

Cuomo, during his speech, said, “The best long term economic development strategy is to have the best education system in the world, period, and that is our focus.”

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