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If you are unable to attend the Jan. 31 event, you can learn more about it by visiting
Education Speaks. The event was also live-tweeted by Education Speaks editorial board members. Check out what they posted under #NYSchoolsInPeril to get the scoop from the event!

Guilderland stakeholders attend January 31 Regional Education Forum
'Your Schools in Fiscal Peril - Running Out of Time & Options'

Feb. 1, 2013—Last night nearly 40 Guilderland stakeholders joined an unprecedented gathering of more than 1,000 public education stakeholders, representing the 47 Capital Region component school districts of Capital Region BOCES and Questar III BOCES, to draw region-wide attention to the fiscal crisis facing all public schools.

“Your Public Schools in Fiscal Peril – Running Out of Time & Options,” held at Columbia High School, focused on the need for action to be taken during the 2013 Legislative Session to:

Eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment;

Provide adequate and equitable aid to education; and

Provide a meaningful measure of mandate relief.


Featured speaker Dr. Rick Timbs, executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium, discussed the importance of eliminating the state's Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), providing adequate and equitable aid to education, and providing a meaningful measure of mandate relief to school districts.

Timbs, a retired educator, explained that the Gap Elimination Adjustment is a cut in state education aid that Gov. David Paterson proposed as a one-time fix to help the state’s budget deficit. But the state has used it the past three years, costing Capital Region schools a total of $305 million in state aid they otherwise would have received. It is included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget for a fourth straight year.

Timbs also pointed to the state aid formula New York uses to distribute school aid. Using the state’s own budget figures, he illustrated how upstate school districts are not getting their fair share of state aid. As a result, upstate schools are faced with cutting programs they and their communities value while the cost of education is increasingly being shifted to local property taxes. “The truth is all kids should be treated fairly, no matter where they live. Shouldn’t everyone have a fair shot at an education, no matter their zip code?” said Timbs. “The reality is that the Class of 2012 may have received the best education for the foreseeable future.”

He told the audience that the current system for funding schools in New York state is broken and that not enough state aid is making its way to the schools that need it most. He asked of state leaders, "what's the plan?" Timbs noted that school's can't be efficient or cost effective enough under the current structure to avoid more painful and devastating cuts to programs for students.

To help illustrate the deep concerns of rural, suburban and urban school districts, superintendents from three area districts spoke about the impact the Gap Elimination Adjustment, inequity of school aid and lack of mandate relief have had on student opportunities.

Guilderland Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marie Wiles spoke on behalf of the many suburban districts represented at the event, dispelling the myth that suburban schools are not affected by the inadequacy of state aid. “From the outside looking in, it might appear that suburban schools have endless resources,” she said, “when in fact our resources are just as finite as those of our friends and colleagues in rural and urban school districts.”

Dr. Wiles noted that Guilderland has lost $12.3 million over the past three years due to the Gap Elimination Adjustment. As a result, the district has eliminated 125 full-time equivalent positions, leading to increased class sizes at all levels and fewer supports for faculty, staff and students who are struggling.

“Despite the rhetoric that suggests that state aid has been increased to school districts, the reality is that the resources needed to fund our programs are being whittled away,” said Dr. Wiles. “In the absence of adequate state aid and any meaningful relief from costly mandates, the financial and educational insolvency of our school districts is not a function of ‘if’ it will happen, but rather ‘when’ it will happen.”

Schodack Superintendent of Schools Bob Horan and Schenectady City Superintendent Larry Spring also shared their personal perspectives on how failure to act in Albany will continue to harmfully impact their students next school year, and for years to come. The event also featured a video highlighting what is at stake without significant change in the way public education is funded in New York. View the video

See the video below to learn more about the event


What’s next?

With power in numbers, the event hoped to empower new citizen advocates to reach out to our elected representatives to remind them of their responsibility in supporting quality public education for our community. Following the January 31 forum, district stakeholders from across the region will be asked to take the next step and mobilize by the hundreds (perhaps thousands) by advocating for change with the elected leaders serving their communities. To help them in that process, the Niskayuna Central School District will host a second forum on the evening of Monday, February 11, to teach effective advocacy strategies and techniques. Joining us will be Robert N. Lowry, Jr., Deputy Director for Advocacy Research & Communications, for the NYS Council of School Superintendents (NYSCSS). More details will follow but, in the meantime, please save the date.

Guilderland Schools have already begun the process of speaking out for changes in school funding. On Tuesday, Jan. 15, the district hosted a community-wide event, "“Let Us Be Heard: Community Advocacy for a Guilderland Education,” to take a closer look at the issues of declining state aid, increased costs, and an overall loss of local control for public education and how they are impacting the school district. Nearly 50 people attended the event, and many stayed long after the presentation to write letters and email to their elected officials, asking for their support of our public schools. Learn more about the Jan. 15 event

We encourage all of our community members to learn about the issues impacting our schools and to advocate for the kind of education you want your children and grandchildren to have here at GCSD. Learn more about advocacy

Where can I learn more about the Jan. 31 event?

You can learn more about the recent Regional Advocacy Forum event at Columbia High School by visiting the Education Speaks website. You can also view coverage of the event from the following local news outlets:

The Times Union