Weekly Feature

2015-03-18 / Editorials

State public education system must be saved

Bee Editorial

After five years of functioning under the gap elimination adjustment, districts are to the point of choosing between additional programming for students who seek more instruction and guidance outside the school day, and ensuring that they achieve only what is required of them to graduate.

What was supposed to be a onetime reduction in aid for the 2009-10 school year has now cost most districts millions of dollars, leading to the elimination of teachers, elective courses, clubs, athletics and now, programming for students.

Rallies have been organized across the state to give a voice to those previously ignored by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The hope is that these rallies will incite action and return both funding and local control to the school districts.

With the deadline rapidly approaching for the districts to finalize their budgets for the 2015-16 school year, it is becoming increasingly apparent that school boards will be left without options. They will be forced to eliminate anything not deemed necessary by the state.

While it is a sorrowful time for school districts, it is also a time of action, bringing together all stakeholders to form a unified front.

Teachers are speaking with passion about their careers; students are citing their successes both inside and outside the classroom; parents are acknowledging how well-rounded, mature and prepared their children have become through their studies or their extracurricular activities; and superintendents are finding inspiration in their alliance for public education.

Looking forward, many have said the only hope for saving public education is to immediately remove the GEA, and in some cases, Cuomo as well. Despite a surplus in the state budget for the first time in a number of years, the return of the funding that schools need, are pleading for and deserve will not repair the damage already done to students who have had to go without it for the past five years.

It has become the norm for districts to not offer modified sports, art, music, drama, advanced placement courses and other means for students to excel, set themselves apart from their peers, and get ahead in college or career preparation.

Districts have done their best to make do with the situation, and their efforts have shown in their ability to hold off for as long as possible before cutting the crucial parts of what makes a New York State education.

The return of funding will not mend the broken education system, but it is a start.

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