Northern New York was a big winner in the just announced Regional Economic Development Council awards for which we all thank the governor and the council. It is excellent news. However, the awards handed out to our region and others throughout the state are at risk of being meaningless if the governor and the Assembly do not step up to address the shortfall in school funding that threatens the core of economic growth: education.
While my concern, and that of my family and community, regards the funding crisis that will have a particularly dramatic impact for the Canton Central School District in the 2012-13 budget year, it extends to rural school districts throughout the state. We are one of the estimated 38 school districts that will exhaust our slim reserve funds next year to maintain what is an excellent, yet pared-to-the-bone, curriculum. Our resources to meet the expense to close the funding gap are not adequate to do the job. While larger than some of our neighboring towns, we still are sparsely populated and revenue from our lower value tax base is not sufficient to cover funding lost because of the Gap Elimination Adjustment elimination. In addition, deficiencies in the school aid formula now in place leave rural school districts in an inequitable position as compared to those with larger and higher-valued tax bases. Our children will be denied the opportunity to acquire the education promised them by our constitution and the governor.
It is time to lay the GAP aside. It will not achieve an equal level of education throughout the state of New York. We provide many services to those outside of our regions in terms of recreation, agriculture and in the cases of Potsdam and Canton, higher education institutions attended by many from the more well-to-do downstate districts. We need equitable educational funding to keep a work force in place to support these services enjoyed by so many from outside our region. As the governor works with the Assembly to prepare the budget, they must not forget the needs of the kindergarten-to-12th-grade students in our states rural districts.
Thank you. Happy Holidays.
Brett W. Thacher