Education groups held a rally at the capital today in support of rural and small city school districts.
Gannett’s Aaron Scholder reports:
Education advocates rallied in Albany today to lobby for an increase in funding to small and rural school districts that have been hit with cuts in recent years.
State legislators including Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca all voiced their support to 800 or so students and educators in attendance.
School superintendents, educators and students from rural districts took issue with $250 million set aside in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget for competitive education grants, asking him to use that money to restore cuts to rural districts. Organizers included the Alliance for Quality Education and New York State United Teachers.
Funding for rural and small city schools in the state has gone down $1.2 billion since 2010, the groups said. Cuomo’s 2012-13 budget proposal restores $160 million of those cuts, they said.
Libous, the Senate Deputy Majority Leader, said he’s in support of competitive grants, so long as rural districts are given their “fair shake.”
“I like the idea of competitive grants,” Libous told the advocates. “But not until we get our fair shake of state aid. We need to get what’s fair to us before we even talk about competitive grants.”
Speakers at the rally said they need the additional funding to prevent a drastic reduction in programming afforded to students as well as funding for the districts’ teachers.
“We should make sure whatever money we do have and are able to find, that we make sure that it’s distributed in a fair formula that helps schools who need it the most, low-and-middle-income schools,” Lifton said.
District superintendents expressed their frustration at Cuomo for what they see as ignoring rural areas of the state.
“Gov. Cuomo isn’t advocating for students from our schools, he’s just advocating for the rich ones,” said Stephen Tomlinson, the superintendent of the Broadalbin-Perth School District, which serves Fulton, Montgomery and Saratoga counties.
Here’s video of Libous addressing the crowd: