I am very concerned about the proposed cuts to education that are in Governor
Paterson’s current budget proposal. Over the past ten years, school communities in
New York State have worked diligently to improve student performance and maintain
safe environments for all students. I am writing to express my concern that the current
proposal for school aid will force all school districts, including the East Greenbush
Central School District, to eliminate entire programs.
I believe that it is a misunderstanding that school districts can cut back and be able
to maintain current programs and academic achievement under Governor Paterson’s
proposal. This simply is not the case. Last year, East Greenbush eliminated 23.5
positions due to the reduction in education funding. With the current proposal to reduce
state aid to East Greenbush by $2.8 million dollars, the District will be forced to
eliminate approximately 80 more positions for the 2010-2011 school year. Please
understand that a school district must continue to meet contractual obligations,
increases in health insurance, increases in equipment and supplies, and the increasing
cost of retirement contributions, among other increasing costs.
Due to on-going funding reductions, there is no place in the budget to reduce costs
other than to eliminate actual positions. Approximately seventy percent of a school
district’s budget is salaries and benefits. Education is a people serving business. Having
already made significant reductions, the Board of Education will be faced with the task
of eliminating non-mandated programs next year.
Non-mandated programs are not required by the New York State Education
Department yet provide our students with great educational benefits. A few examples
Full day kindergarten
Teacher assistant support in kindergarten classrooms
School resource officer and safety monitors
Enrichment programs for gifted and talented students
Art and music in elementary and middle school
Business, technology and home and career classes
After school programs and support
Substance abuse counselors
Non-mandated services offered to students and communities that will be reduced
or eliminated include:
Public access to school buildings and grounds after school and on weekends
Late bus runs
Transportation stops close to home
After school programs and events
Clubs and activities
School districts across New York State have far too many costly mandates that
continue to drive the expenditures for public education. Last year, the state discussed
reducing mandates for public schools. This did not occur. Reducing mandates is not the
complete answer to the economic situation that school systems are facing, but it would
serve to reduce costs in areas inclusive of personnel. I appreciate the fact that the
Governor has proposed freezing mandates but public schools are still operating under
the same costly mandates that have existed for years.
Public schools are a source of pride for communities across New York State.
Further reductions in state and federal funding will take opportunities away from
students. A reduction in programs and opportunities may reduce test scores, increase
drop-outs, and contribute to juvenile delinquency.
New York State has delivered a strong message to educators that they must be
fiscally responsible. They have done so. The East Greenbush Central School District
has trimmed budgets and eliminated dozens of positions over the past two years. Now,
any further reductions can only come from eliminating entire programs and taking away
opportunities for students. It is a struggle when class sizes increase and available staff
time to work with individual students decreases. Our student populations have become
more diverse, educational standards have risen, and our school districts will no longer
have the funding to maintain student performance results if further reductions occur.
I am asking that you share my concerns with your colleagues and seek alternate
sources of funding to supplement the current funding of public education.