School officials had one question Friday during the annual Jefferson-Lewis School Board Association Legislative Breakfast at Case Middle School: Wheres the money?
State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton; Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River; and Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, listened to concerns from school leaders facing state aid cuts and voter backlash for raising property taxes.
New York state spends a lot of money on education, Mr. Blankenbush said. They just dont know how to spend it.
He said schools could be helped if the $250 million that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants to spend on competitive grants was returned to the budget and redistributed to school districts.
Last year, the governor said were going to put 4 percent back into the budget, but schools dont know what happened to their share, Mr. Blankenbush said.
The president of the Alexandria Central School Board of Education agreed.
What I want to know is how the governor is going to feel when were No. 1 in spending and 43rd in results, said Stephen S. Drezler.
Some schools are more desperate than others. Copenhagens superintendent, Scott N. Connell, said there is a possibility his district will be bankrupt in a few years if state aid continues to dwindle.
Its becoming apparent that the state is trying to consolidate, he said. It bothers me to say (to parents) we couldnt help your kids because we dont have the resources to do it.
Mr. Connell said students learn more efficiently in small schools, but districts are being punished because the state doesnt like small schools.
No, youre being punished by Long Island and Westchester, Mrs. Russell said. Were distributing money the wrong way.
Mrs. Russell said students wont be productive members of society if schools cant provide classes that offer a competitive edge on college and employee resumes. She said unfunded mandates have eroded the budgets of the states poorest schools, many of which are in the north country.
At this point, Im not buying into the fluff out there, she said. At this point, a lot of the federal policies are perverting what we can provide for our children.
When Mrs. Ritchie was asked about her contribution toward getting rid of unfunded mandates, she said it has been brought up to no avail.
Mrs. Ritchie said she hoped the states budget will be adopted by March 26. The state fiscal year begins April 1.