Letters: On Schools

Haldane Board asks for help with Albany

As we dive into our school budget season, we are faced with the consistent and detrimental challenges of funding. We are dealing with state aid that has not been increased and a Gap Elimination Adjustment that has not been relevant since 2008. We are forced to do more with less and our students are paying the price.

We want to guide our students into the 21st century with college and career readiness, yet this mandate keeps getting harder to pursue as our budget diminishes and our costs continue to increase. We need to tell our government that the way they are funding (or perhaps more accurately, not funding) our schools is not working. They need to invest in our schools, our students, and in our communities in a meaningful way.

Please go to haldanepta.org and join their advocacy mission to make change. Our collective voices do make a difference. Let’s stand up together.

Thank you on behalf of the Haldane Board of Education.

Jen Daly
President, Haldane Board of Education
Cold Spring

All students should be served

Last week, my wife and I learned that the Garrison Union Free School District would be cutting its communications class due to budget constraints. The communications class was Garrison’s self-contained class which created a smaller setting for students who required additional supports. Our son attended the class as part of a consortium Haldane maintains with Garrison.

As an educator, I am fully aware that tight school budgets often create tough decisions for school administrators to make. I am also aware that, historically and currently, students with special needs are often at the forefront of those cuts. Time and time again, school districts have made the decision to save money by removing special-education programs from their communities. This practice forces local students with special needs to be educated apart from their local peer groups, and eliminates the opportunity for current students to learn and socialize with students of diverse and varying needs.

At the Jan. 27 board meeting, District Superintendent Laura Mitchell stated that eliminating the communications class “may help us on our end, to save a little money.” That may be true financially, but our investment in children should not be solely a monetary one. As a parent, I’m concerned as to what message this may be sending our children. When schools fail to find a way to educate their own, we have to begin to question our values and priorities as a community.

As we move into the future, let’s hope that our schools can begin to make a commitment to serve our most diverse students, and provide all of our children the opportunity to attend schools that value and celebrate students with special needs.

Steve Corbett
Nelsonville

Beacon schools shortchanged

Senator Sue Serino is absolutely right — our kids can’t wait another year while politicians in Albany drag their feet. But when we look at her policies, we have to ask: Whose kids is she really advocating for? Because she’s certainly been neglecting us.

Her initiative to pay back the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) will primarily benefit middle-income and wealthy school districts, and will not meet the needs of our kids in high-needs schools who are struggling to survive with dwindling resources.

On the other hand, the Foundation Aid formula is designed to distribute funds equitably, so that we can begin to address multi-generational inequalities in our public education system. Additionally, Foundation Aid would provide sufficient funding to make a meaningful difference in the quality of our schools.

In the Beacon City School District, students living in poverty (51 percent of the student population) and students with disabilities (17 percent) have been hit hardest by the state’s refusal to fund Foundation Aid. Vital services and support for these students have disappeared. An entire generation of students have experienced a downgrade in the quality of their education under the watch of politicians like Serino who have refused to prioritize quality public education over the whims of billionaires.

The numbers reveal a stark difference between the GEA payback and the actual needs of our students. Serino’s proposal to pay back the GEA alone is $344,896. The Foundation Aid required by the New York State Court of Appeals for Beacon to provide a “sound and basic education”: $3,794,216. So the additional funding our schools need to meet the basic standard for a quality education is nearly ten times the amount they will receive under Serino’s proposal.

We need a state senator who will look out for us. Serino’s actions so far have shown us that she is doing the opposite. By advocating to eliminate the GEA and ignoring her constituents’ need for Foundation Aid, she is looking out for her own interests and the interests of her campaign donors. Worse, she is willfully confusing voters by positioning herself as a champion of education.

If you are concerned about the welfare and rights of the most vulnerable children in your district, we are asking you to stand up for our kids. You can do this by fighting for a $1.1 billion increase in Foundation Aid in the 2016 budget and for full funding of Foundation Aid in the near future. Stop throwing us under the bus. Stand up for kids!

Terry Nelson
Beacon


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