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Massena Matters looking to fill bus to attend education funding rally

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MASSENA - Members of the Massena Matters group are currently trying to fill a bus with students, parents, teachers and concerned community members from the region to head to Albany for an education funding rally sponsored by the Alliance for Quality Education.

Susanne Daye, who began hosting the meetings just over a year ago as a way to discuss issues within the Massena community and brainstorm ways to address those issues and help make Massena a better place, said the Alliance for Quality Education will pay for transportation expenses associated with the trip.

But there is a catch.

“You need to fill the bus in order for them to pay for it,” Ms. Daye said.

The rally will be held on March 12 and is being billed as an “Education Parade and Lobby Day.”

“We’ve got to strike now while the iron is hot,” Ms. Daye said. “The governor is starting to talk more about education.”

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said she is working to help area schools receive the state aid they need to properly fund education.

“My position has been to get rid of the Gap Elimination Adjustment,” she said, referring to the $1.6 billion pool of education aid currently being withheld from schools by the state.

The Gap Elimination Adjustment was enacted for the 2010-11 fiscal year in an effort to help close the state’s then-$10 million budget deficit.

A portion of the funding shortfall was divided among all school districts in the state and reflected as a reduction in state aid.

St. Lawrence County’s school superintendents have renewed calls for its elimination, saying schools have already cut programs and staff to bare bones to make up for the funding loss and stay under the state’s mandated 2 percent cap on tax increases while still meeting basic education requirements.

Recognizing that a $1.6 billion aid restoration might be tough for the state to budget for in one year, Ms. Russell said she would like to see $1 billion restored this year, with the remaining portion of the GEA returned to schools next year.

“Getting rid of the Gap Elimination Adjustment is probably going to serve us a bit better than recalculating the aid formula,” she said.

Ms. Daye said the trip is open to people from Massena and the surrounding communities.

People interested in attending the rally may contact Mrs. Russell through email at russell@assembly.state.ny.us or via telephone.

Her Canton office may be reached at 386-2037 or her Watertown office may be reached at 786-2084.

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