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Reform funding formula for aid to schools

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Our school is being left behind.

During the recent Regional Economic Development Council awards ceremony, Gov. Andrew Cuomo used the analogy of getting on the train to prosperity. As we contemplate the education of our two sons, however, we fear the state’s current education system is not on board this train.

Since our 6-year-old son, Jacob, enrolled in Canton’s Banford Elementary School, his reading, writing and math skills have excelled. These achievements were cultivated by Banford’s excellent preschool and kindergarten programs, and by outstanding teaching staff. As a result of insufficient state funding and the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), Jacob’s school faces the elimination of preschool, a 50 percent reduction in kindergarten and increasing class sizes to 40 students. As a result of these and other cuts, we fear our 3-year old son, Aaron, will not have access to essential resources that are needed to develop critical, life-long learning skills. Furthermore, we worry these impending cuts such as these will hinder our children’s ability to continue their education when they graduate.

Canton Central Schools serve as the bellwether of education funding that unequally impacts New York’s small, rural school districts. The burden of school aid cuts disproportionately harms these districts, and deficits cannot be readily closed through taxation. Canton’s school tax levy would have to increase by 30 percent as a result of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, whereas rich districts need only raise their tax levies by a few percentage points.

Our state’s economic prosperity requires creative, resourceful, and qualified workers, entrepreneurs and leaders, and they are nurtured through quality schools. Insolvent school districts turn out students who are the opposite. While New York is open for business, the current cuts to education send a message to prospective investors and employees to not enroll their children here. If the GEA and current funding formula continue, there will be no advanced placement courses. No language courses. No drama. No music. No sports. This is what our school district faces.

A sound education is a constitutional right for all New York children and it is being denied to Canton’s students. Canton’s schools need an advocate, a champion, who will step up and eliminate the GEA and reform the foundation funding formula so that all New York school districts can offer a high quality education. Without this leadership, the economic train to prosperity will leave hundreds of schools and an entire generation of students behind at the station.

Matilda Larson

Canton

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