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Some districts around the state, including four in Herkimer County, are talking about a merger, though the idea remains controversial in the communities that would be effected.
State Education commissioner John King, a proponent of consolidation, says “we’re in a period where we’re going to have to make some tough choices”; King also says it’s a way to make diminishing streams of funding go further.
“In this fiscal climate all options have to be on the table, to find ways, not only to save money, but to protect programs for students,” says King.
King says consolidations preserve programs like Advanced Placement courses that help kids get into college, as well as art and music, programs that he says many cash strapped districts have been forced to cut.
While the four rural schools are among the first to attempt consolidation, the education commissioner says he thinks wealthier school districts in the more densely populated New York City suburbs of Long Island and Westchester would be even better candidates for mergers.
King says he’s also “very concerned” that a 2% property tax cap enacted by governor Cuomo and the state legislature will further squeeze schools.