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Assembly’s budget adoption finalizes schools’ state aid

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CANTON - The state Assembly has passed its 2013-14 budget, finalizing about $362 million in school aid for the region.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said that there are small victories for north country schools in the coming fiscal year’s budget, but that there is still a long way to go to reach financial equity in education funding.

“There are always things that need to be worked on, but there were several significant victories,” she said.

One of the provisions of her School Funding Equity bill — taking out the floor on the income wealth index — was added to the final budget.

The provision ensures more money is given to poor, rural districts that appear wealthier than they are because of summer vacationers.

Additionally, she said, schools with fewer than 1,500 students are now able to opt out of extra audits, which helps smaller districts save money.

“That’s a big victory for our school districts,” Mrs. Russell said.

According to a statement released from her office, the final budget helps restore nearly $518 million to help make up for the gap elimination adjustment — cuts in state aid made to offset the state budget deficit. The budget also boosts foundation aid more than $171 million more than the governor’s proposal in January.

“Having said that, our school districts are receiving less in real dollars than they did before the recession,” she said.

Her concern echoes that of superintendents throughout the region worried about slashing teacher positions and school programs to close budget gaps.

She has spoken to the state Education Department about providing more information on how to merge schools or create regional districts.

“Our schools and communities need to know what their options are,” she said.

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