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Fulton Schools Chief Tells Legislators State Aid Is Not Adequate

The head of Fulton’s school district traveled to Albany Tuesday to tell state legislators that they’re not providing enough money for education.

Superintendent of Schools Bill Lynch’s testimony was on behalf of the New York State Association of Small City School Districts.  He’s President of the group this year.

Lynch did not deliver the testimony in person, though he intended to.  The hearing by a joint committee of the state Assembly and Senate fell more than three hours behind schedule as legislators spent more than five hours grilling, and in some cases yelling at, education and union officials from New York City for their failure to agree on a plan for teacher and administrator evaluations.

Lynch had to leave to be back in Fulton in time for a budget workshop, so his written testimony was entered into the record of the meeting.

In it, he said that the state’s spoken goals of improved education, contained costs and equal distribution of aid are not reflected in its actions.

This year’s proposed increase in aid to schools, for example, benefits wealthy districts more than poorer districts like Fulton, he wrote.  The aid targeted for new programs such as longer school days and years comes at the expense of the state’s constitutional requirement to fund a sound, basic education.

The approximately 3% increase in basic aid to Fulton (actually achieved by taking back less aid through the Gap Elimination Adjustment) will provide an extra $823,000 for next school year but will only fill two-thirds of the estimated $1.2 million increase in payments to the state teacher and worker retirement funds.  That doesn’t take into account increases in other expenses such as energy costs which should push spending up about $2.4 million overall.

The recent state aid proposal for Fulton shows an overall increase of about $2.1 million, but officials say that some of the increases are in areas that pay the district back for money it has already spent, and that some of the state’s estimates are very high.

The extra $823,000 “is the true increase,” said district Financial Director Kathy Nichols.

“I would assume that when everything is finalized, we won’t be receiving $2.4 million,” Lynch told his budget committee Tuesday night.

“It is a grave injustice that state education aid does not support sufficient spending levels for New York’s neediest children,” Lynch’s testified.  He noted that new additions to the education formula guarantee that unequal funding will not be fixed anytime soon.

He testified that the gap in funding for the state’s poorer districts is reflected in student test scores.

“State education funding has been going in the wrong direction, leaving the poorest schools and children behind,” he wrote.