Thursday, February 27, 2014

Making the Rounds

We're making the rounds of state representatives' town hall meetings, squawking as ever about eliminating the GEA.

I also managed to get our agenda included in the County Dems packet:

Advocating for Our Schools in State Budget Season

1. ELIMINATE THE GEA The Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) was established in 2010 to help the state close its budget deficit. It spread the funding shortfall around all school districts through a GEA reduction to foundation aid due to schools. Since 2010, Dryden Central Schools have lost $11 million that was promised to them by the new school finance formula. Trumansburg has lost $7 million. Ithaca has lost $17 million. The governor’s 2014-15 budget does nothing but lessen the cut; it does not come close to restoring funds. Districts get less state aid today than they got in 2008. Most in this region have used up substantial reserves to stay afloat.


New York State ranks in the mid-forties among all states when it comes to fairness in distributing dollars to districts. The funding of schools is regressive. Wealthy communities receive a level of state aid that is disproportionate in terms of need. Yes, the poorest school in NYS receives 8 times the aid of the richest. However, the richest school is 14 times wealthier than the poorest school. The inequity continues. The schools won the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit in 2003, but the new Foundation Aid Formula has never been fully implemented. The state has been out of compliance ever since. Aid distribution must align with a community’s actual ability to support its schools—it must take poverty and local taxation into account. The governor’s budget simply tightens the tax cap, ensuring that districts cannot make up the difference with local dollars, even if they have the money.


Legislators like to make laws. It’s part of their job. Every year, they make more and more laws to guide schools in their daily operations. Of the 151 mandates that offer the greatest challenges to school districts in cost and time, 69 percent are entirely unfunded. Districts must pay for them either by raising local taxes or by cutting programs or personnel. Well-intentioned mandates threaten non-mandated, high-priority programs and services in local school districts. The governor created a Mandate Relief Council that met several times in 2012, issued two reports, and solved, really, nothing at all.


All figures from Statewide School Finance Consortium and CNYSBA.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The New Jim Crow

In case you thought states were just going to fall like dominoes to the new civil rights movement, I give you Kansas, whose legislature just passed this law. It states, in brief, that no individual or religious organization can be required by the government to provide services, accommodations, or employment or treat any partnership as valid if it "would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender." In other words, pseudo-sharia law trumps civil law in Kansas, which has had its problems over the years. As Andrew Sullivan suggests, it's the sort of law Vladimir Putin would support.

LATER: Cooler heads prevailed, and the KS Senate rejected this.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Another Year, Another Lawsuit

In 1993, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity brought suit against the state of New York for its inequitable funding of schools and won. It helped that there is a line in the state constitution guaranteeing NYS students the right to a "sound basic education." The case wound its way through a variety of challenges and appeals, and CFE won at every stage. In 2007, the state legislature enacted a reform act that promised the schools another $7 billion by 2010-11 and vowed to make foundation aid equitable and based solely on need.

Well, guess what. The year 2008 was a fiscal nightmare in NYS, and the state decided that all bets were off, lawsuit or no lawsuit. The result has been that in our region, no school today has the level of state funding it had back in 2007, much less the additional monies promised by the reform act. Via the so-called Gap Elimination Adjustment, the state saw fit to fill its own budget gap by taking money from the schools, again in a way that caused more damage to poorer schools and less to richer schools. Our major request to the legislature this year is to kill the GEA. After all, the governor now claims we have a surplus!

Enter the CFE again, or at least its erstwhile leader, Michael Rebell, who is a real hero. His new organization, New Yorkers for Students' Educational Rights, has launched another suit. Stay tuned, perhaps for another 20 years.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Another Year, Another Hopeless Budget

Paul and I attended this event in Auburn, where we heard from Rick Timbs again about the inequities students face in upstate NY and about the false suggestion that we're getting a substantial bump in state aid, when in fact we are simply getting less of a cut. It's hard to imagine how Dr. T keeps this up year after year; I feel like crawling into a hole each time I see the figures in black and white.

I think it's fair to say that not only does O receive a poorer education than I did in Ithaca a million years ago, but she also receives less than she would have in her own district a dozen years ago.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Why It's Good to Have a Young Mayor

As we struggle under a blanket of snow (not the 16 inches promised, but still substantial), the mayor of Ithaca has cancelled his meetings, gathered his roommates, and is responding to Facebook requests for shoveling driveways, sidewalks, etc. all over the City of Ithaca.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


This one really hurts. He was a flippin' genius.