Superintendent urges equitable distribution of state aid, mandate relief
Feb. 1, 2012
Watervliet Superintendent of Schools Dr.
Lori Caplan met with state Assemblyman Ron Canestrari today urging him
to actively support school mandate relief and a more equitable
distribution of state education aid across New York State.
The Watervliet City School District is facing a $2.3 million budget deficit for the 2012-13 school year, and is set receive $23,300 more in state aid than it did last year when state funding to the district was slashed by over $1.1 million.
“I stressed to Mr. Canestrari that we need him and other legislators to push for better solutions for our students,” Dr. Caplan said. “The inequitable distribution of state aid and costly unfunded state mandates seriously hamper the ability of high-needs districts like Watervliet to provide a sound education for our students. Because of the inequities in the state’s funding process, the students here in Watervliet are being short-changed.”
Dr. Caplan presented Mr. Canestrari with a letter signed by herself, Watervliet Board of Education President Mark Scully and Watervliet Teachers’ Association co-presidents Scott Emerson and Peter Strand.
“The letter underscores how the administration, the board of education and the employees are cooperatively working to do what’s best for our students and the educational program in Watervliet,” Dr. Caplan said.
Mr. Canestrari acknowledged the inequitable distribution of education aid and how it perpetuates the academic achievement gap between wealthy and needy districts.
“We’ll work together and do what we can,” Mr. Canestrari said.
In his executive budget address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an $805 million increase in education aid statewide but little of that money is currently earmarked for Watervliet schools.
Dr. Caplan says there is a clear connection between aid reduction and the district being placed back on the state’s Schools in Need of Improvement (SINI) list this year.
“We’re faced with dwindling resources as standards rise and state tests become more challenging,” Dr. Caplan said.
With less money available to operate, Watervliet in recent years has made the difficult decision to eliminate the positions for a reading coach, student assistance counselor, two classroom teachers and a full-time elementary librarian. BOCES student enrichment programs, secretarial staff and textbooks have also been reduced, and technology upgrades are currently at a standstill. Freshmen sports teams and parent newsletter communications have also been eliminated.
Despite these cuts and other measures such as recent wage freezes and health care concessions, Watervliet currently faces a $2.3 million budget gap for the 2012-13 school year.
In addition to cuts in revenue, unfunded state mandates disproportionately affect high-needs districts such as Watervliet, Dr. Caplan said, which faces escalating costs for academic intervention services, early intervention services, data collection, English language learners, test scoring, educating incarcerated students, teacher mentoring programs and more.
“Mr. Canestrari understands our situation, and we count on him, as he has done in the past, to advocate for our students as the state Legislature works to finalize the state budget in the coming week,” Dr. Caplan said. “We encourage our residents to learn all they can about the state budget and our local budget and become advocates for sound education in our district for every student, every day.”
Local residents who would like to learn more about the 2012-13 budget are invited to several upcoming public forums to learn more about next year’s budget and to share feedback:
>Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. in the District Administrative Conference Room at Watervliet Junior-Senior High School
>Saturday, March 3: Budget and Breakfast Forum, 10 a.m., Watervliet Junior-Senior High School cafeteria
>Wednesday, March 14: 6:30 p.m., Watervliet Elementary School cafeteria – Budget Q & A sponsored by the school PTA and UPK
The district also encourages residents to contact their state legislator directly:
Assemblyman Ron Canestrari Senator Neil Breslin
Albany Office Albany Office
LOB 926 172 State Street Room 413, Capitol
Albany, NY 12248 Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-4474 Phone: (518) 455-2225