It’s a tough time for schools, budget-wise. We’ve been covering this story extensively for some time now, but one recent story by Julie Grant lays out the problem as it currently stands: In that story, Hermon-DeKalb Central School superintendent Ann Adams says, although local schools did better than expected in this year’s budget, the district has “nothing left to cut,” and that it’s close to the point of going broke.
Another story from that same day, April 2, has incoming Saranac Lake Central school superintendent telling reporter Chris Knight that the main problem she’s facing in her new position is, well, money. That district is looking at a budget gap of more than $1 million.
We’ve seen this story repeated again and again throughout our region (and we can be sure it’s not just a North Country problem.) North Country Now is reporting this week that local school superintendents (the article quotes superintendents from Potsdam and Norwood-Norfolk) are saying that while that state aid increase might save some jobs this year, rural districts won’t survive if there’s not some serious change.
What kind of change are they suggesting, you ask? Well, mandate relief, not suprisingly, and an adjustment in the state school aid formula, which many feel benefits wealthier districts at the expense of poorer ones.
They’re also looking to eliminate something called the “Gap Elimination Adjustment,” (GEA) which (follow me here) divides a portion of the state’s funding shortfall among all school districts in the state, and subtracts that amount from state aid (somewhat wonkier details in the article.) The GEA, has been reduced somewhat in the latest budget.
Missing from this article is another big topic in rural education, and one that’s come up lately here in the North Country: consolidation. This may be because the article’s actually about preserving school districts, but consolidation looks to be emerging as a more and more important issue as time goes on (actually, 18 St. Lawrence County school districts participated in a consolidation study two years ago that recommended the creation of regional high schools, among other things.) Some school districts have considered taking steps toward consolidation, as Ogdensburg did last month, and several Tri-Lakes schools did last year.