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Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Regional high school

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The division of St. Lawrence County into multiple state legislative districts is working against county school districts striving to find creative ways to cope with financial pitfalls ahead.

School leaders are taking a courageous approach to make sure their constituents clearly understand the extent of the financial difficulties confronting school disiricts in the next few years.

They have been straightforward in their warnings of financial insolvency and educational bankruptcy that could hit them in two or three years as well as the difficult choices they face trying to balance budgets with limited state aid and constraints imposed by the state-mandated property tax cap.

Yet Sen. Elizabeth O’C. Little, one of the the county’s seven state lawmakers, is reluctant to support their efforts. Sen. Little is not endorsing legislation to create a regional high school being pursued by Heuvelton, Morristown and Hermon-Dekalb school districts.

A half-dozen towns on the eastern edge of the county were put in a new Senate district now represented by Sen. Little, a resident of Queensbury at the southeastern end of the district near Glens Falls, when the county was carved up into three Senate districts and four Assembly districts in the 2012 reapportionment. Even getting seven lawmakers together to listen to school and county leaders is problematic.

Sen. Little, concerned about the loss of jobs, believes school officials have enough latitude within existing laws to work together to find savings, such as expanding shared services or through a tuition arrangement sending students to other schools, which is also under consideration in St. Lawrence County.

The primary concern, though, should be the generation of St. Lawrence County children not receiving a quality education that puts them at a disadvantage with their peers in the state and nation. Sen. Little’s opposition does not reflect reality.

As enrollment declined more than 10,000 students to 16,000 in the past three decades, small districts are unable to maintain a curriculum beyond the basic educational program and even that is threatened in some districts.

In order for her constituents to prosper, the entire county has to thrive.

Legislation has been introduced and supported by the state Education Department to give districts the option of creating regional high schools.

However, a splintered delegation works against passage. A unified delegation has to get behind the plan to give school districts the choice of solutions best suited to meeting their needs.

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