C-R gearing up for state aid battle


By Jim Poole

Cobleskill-Richmondville is gearing up to urge legislators and Governor Cuomo to increase school aid for 2014-15.
Working with the title, "Our Students Deserve No Less," Superintendent Lynn Macan told school board members Monday night the financial situation this year is just as dire as in the past five years.
And Dr. Macan is looking to the community for help.
Although widespread lobbying resulted in aid increases for this school year, C-R and other rural districts remain in financial trouble, Dr. Macan said.
The aim is to get rid of the Gap Elimination Adjustment--Money Albany began taking from school districts four years ago to close the state budget gap.
"It's amazing," Dr. Macan said. "Five years later, we're getting $3 million less than we got in 2009-10."
C-R's total loss in aid is $11.6 million. The decrease resulted in staff cuts, reductions in class offerings and simply less for kids, Dr. Macan said.
Because reaching out to Albany showed progress last year, she's urging the same approach this year.
"Parents and our community need to tell their stories," Dr. Macan said. "Messages from students are especially effective."
She suggested personal notes to legislators, letters to the editor and comments at public forums.
"Emails are fine, but personal notes get more attention," Dr. Macan said of letters to legislators.
She also recommended people become better informed and be able to correct misinformation in the public.
"Individually, it may not see much, but together, they have force," Dr. Macan said of the strategies.
She's concerned this year because Governor Cuomo may offer a five-percent aid increase, which may seem high but is far from enough.
"It's just a reduction of what was taken away," Dr. Macan said.
"I'm very worried about the Governor and the way this will be portrayed. Advocacy has never been more important."
Also, Dr. Macan noted, 2014 is an election year for the legislature, and aid usually increases in election years.
"We can't count on that," she said.
To boost momentum for advocacy, C-R is hosting Rick Timbs, executive director for the Statewide School Finance Consortium on January 23 for a regional meeting.
An expert on school finances, Mr. Timbs spoke to Capital District school leaders about similar themes a year ago.
The January 23 meeting is open to the public.
"We want people there," Dr. Macan said. "He will spend time on school districts attending. It's beneficial to hear it form the source."
A follow-up meeting will be at South Colonie on January 30.
"This is not just about money. It's about opportunities for students," Dr. Macan said.