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STILL in fiscal peril, region's schools will hold January 30 forum on school funding crisis

Stakeholders from 47 school districts will converge on Colonie Central High School on January 30 to continue the unprecedented regional call to action on the fiscal crisis facing public schools, an effort that began last year.

The event, “New York schools STILL in fiscal peril: Our kids can’t wait another year,” picks up where last year’s massive regional advocacy effort left off. It promises to again bring students, parents, teachers, taxpayers, legislators and school leaders together to talk about what is at stake if state leaders do not eradicate the gap elimination adjustment (GEA) and provide adequate and equitable funding for our schools.

The goal of “New York schools STILL in fiscal peril” is to inform public school stakeholders about the state of the crisis and how it equates to lost opportunities for students, and to catalyze grassroots advocacy at the start of the 2014 state legislative session, which is a critical time for voices to be heard.

All concerned members of the Watervliet community ARE invited to this important forum. If you would like to attend, please call the Superintendent’s Office at 629-3201, or email bboardma@vliet.neric.org. Your RSVP will assist event coordinators, as well as possible local car-pooling plans and/or district follow-up advocacy efforts.

The Thursday, January 30 program is set to take place at 6:30 p.m. at Colonie Central High School in the South Colonie Central School District (Albany County). Directions and more specific details will come from the district in the coming weeks. (Snow date is February 3.)

The event will feature the voices of students, teachers, parents, and school leaders, describing how the crisis has affected programs and opportunities that are important to them and their neighbors.

As with last year, the primary focus of the advocacy campaign is to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment, or GEA – a state policy of withholding promised state aid from districts to meet its fiscal challenges and other budget priorities. In the last four state budgets, the 47 school districts joining forces on January 30 – representing more than 112,000 students in seven counties – have lost more than $387 million in promised aid because of the GEA.

Watervliet alone has seen nearly $4 million in state aid withheld through the GEA in that time.

“It’s no secret that recent years have been fiscally challenging for our schools. Between the GEA and the inequitable distribution of state aid that continues to shortchange small city schools disproportionately, we’ve had to make many difficult choices in an effort to balance our budgets,” said Superintendent Dr. Lori Caplan. “Fortunately, our schools have had the unwavering support of the Watervliet community; still, I have to wonder how much longer we can ask our community to pay more each year to offset the state’s practice of withholding funds that had been promised to schools?”