After Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new Race to the Top-type of state funding for schools in New York, superintendents from both North Colonie and South Colonie are bit nervous as to how much they will be receiving this year.
The program described by Cuomo is competitive funding for schools in two areas of education: student performance and cutting down on administration costs with little effect to the quality learning experience provided to students. Each award would be worth $250 million.
Both N.Colonie Superintendent Joseph Corr and S.Colonie Superintendent Jon Buhner said without any details, they are not sure if this means there will be additional funding or if they are going to have to compete for all of their state funding this year.
I think people have to remember, this is during a time when last year the state reduced our state support by $2.7 million, he said. `So we lost 12 or 13 percent state aid last year, so we had to figure out how to operate our programs, make those adjustments and plan for this year with an almost $3 million loss in state aid last year. So when he comes out and says you’re going to have to competitive grants for your funding, as district I have to think to myself is that in addition to losses from previous years?`
Corr said that `the devil’s in the details` when discussing Cuomo’s new competitive grant program, and said they are good ideas on the surface. He said there are too many unanswered questions for him to provide an intelligent opinion on them.
`The other issue too is what are the other details regarding student achievement?` he asked. `How is that going to be measured? What’s going to be the standards for that? Because that is an inexact science and there are many factors that contribute to student achievement or lack of student achievement.`
With both districts there is a mixture of different backgrounds students may come from that could contribute to their learning curve, Buhner said. He added that their learning ability could depend on their support from home, some may not know English yet and others may have special needs.
`There is a clear connection between poverty and academic achievement,` said Buhner. `Schools can bridge that gap if their thoughtful with their resources. But that’s why I say the details matter because it isn’t apples to apples when you’re comparing urban districts to suburban districts. Their challenges are not the same.`
The idea of competition and the effort of raising the bar on student performance and administration performance are good things, said Corr, but he said that when Cuomo spoke of the state being 34th in performance but number one in spending, he got worried.
`That to me signaled the fact that the governor, and perhaps the state legislature, they will not recommend increases in funding for education,` he said. `That was the message I derived from that. And I think the big thing is for us, are there going to be cuts in state aid or is state aid going to be held flat.`
As Cuomo said he will be releasing his budget in the coming weeks, Buhner said there are some big decisions that need to be made in regards to cuts to funding, but hopes that the decisions will be made to help different towns and their school districts.
`Looking at the big global picture, I as a citizen of New York would hope that they’re willing to make some large scale decisions for municipalities and their schools in regards to trying the balance the state budget,` he said.“
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