Canton Central students have put together a wonderful video, posted on Youtube, that is definitely worth watching:
These students are clearly passionate about their school and seem to be getting the message from their adult leaders that there is no other way to deliver a sound education than to have more money. I do wish the adults in their world would help them learn more about economics and how the State Aid for Education system works in this state.
First of all, New York State has been through a recession which has lasted for four years and may last for several more. When less money is available, it is necessary to spend less money. We have all implemented this plan for our own household budgets since the recession hit. Many have had to dig deep into savings just to make ends meet.
To be fair, I believe that many school leaders have been ill-equipped to handle the enormity of this economic impact and have underestimated the extent to which the State and Federal governments are willing and able to help them out. Remember that the particularly bleak fiscal situation school districts are in this year is because the Federal stimulus money has run out and the State has imposed a tax cap on municipalities. From reading newspaper articles about school districts' plans for their budgets next year and attending the Finance committee meetings in my own district, I don't believe that administrators and Boards of Education spent the last year trying to figure out what would be done. They knew this was coming a year ago. Now it is too late to do anything other than cut and upset everyone.
Second, the funding for almost 690 school districts in New York State is enormously complicated. There is no one formula that can achieve fiscal equity for every school district. There are too many variables. St. Lawrence County schools are going to be very low on the priority list because, relative to New York State's standards, its students are doing well educationally. In fact, there is not one administrator or teacher in this county who will publicly state that students in this county ought to be getting a better education than they are currently getting. Even privately, most school staff believe that the education received in St. Lawrence County is as good as it gets. Why would the State give us more?
Third, there are over 200 school districts that are way ahead in the claim that they need more money because their Need Resource Category identifies them as high need. It includes New York City which has 1.1 million of the State's 2.7 million students and received $6900 per student during 2011-12. This explains why the Campaign for Fiscal Equity went after the State on behalf of New York City's students. In contrast, Potsdam received $8900 per student and Canton received $9600. There are about 350 school districts that are designated average need districts, which is where Potsdam and Canton find themselves. Finally, there are just about 125 out of the 690 school districts in all of the state that are considered low need districts. I am not sure how much state aid money the low need districts get in their entirety, but I would bet that you could take it all away and not make a dent in the amount of aid average needs districts think they should have.
Finally, if our school leaders want to do what is best for our students, they will get down to business, harness the creativity within their communities (including its students), and figure out a way to do more (or as much) with less. Because, as we all know, more does not mean better.