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Canton Central School. Photo: Lizette Haenel
Canton Central School. Photo: Lizette Haenel

What does Cuomo's budget mean for schools in the North Country?

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Governor Cuomo's budget was packed full of big news for schools. He proposed universal pre-kindergarten, after school programs, and a $2 billion bond initiative that would bring technology into classrooms. But North Country educators say there are other implications for area schools.

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Reported by

Sarah Harris
Reporter and Producer

Jay Boak is superintendent of Jefferson-Lewis-Hamilton-Herkimer-Oneida BOCES. He described the governor’s budget this way: "I don’t think you’ll find the school boards and superintendents from my region of the state jumping for joy at first glance."

The budget increases school aid by $807 million this year, or just under 4 percent. That’s a lot less than the $1.9 billion that education activists and over 80 legislators called for. 

And there’s something else. Superintendent Jay Boak says he’s disappointed that the governor didn’t get rid of Gap Elimination Adjustment – the law that divides the state’s budget shortfall among school districts, ultimately reducing their state aid.

"This has really hurt the districts that I work for, that I serve. And it seems odd that the governor touts increasing aid to education on the one hand and fails to say that he’s taking it out of the pockets of educators with the other hand," said Boak.

Bill Gregory, superintendent of Canton Central School district, says Canton’s overall increase in state aid is 9 percent. A lot of that goes towards the physical plant. But only about 2 percent goes to operations, which is where he says he needs it most.

"At this point, it doesn’t look like we’re going to be where we need to be in order to sustain the quality program that we have right now at Canton Central School," Gregory said.

In his speech yesterday the Governor addressed complaints about the Common Core roll-out and asked the legislature to help do something about it, saying "Let’s get recommendations for corrective action by the end of this session, let’s pass a package of corrective actions by the end of this session, and let’s end the anxiety that parents and teachers and students are feeling all across this state."

Plattsburgh Assemblywoman Janet Duprey says it was one of the most powerful moments.

"He probably got more applause on that than anything else he said today," Duprey said. 

The Alliance for Quality Education said in a statement that Cuomo’s budget fails to address inequalities between rich and poor schools. The organization doubts the state’s ability to implement a pre-k program that’s truly universal in just 5 years.

The budget now goes to the legislature. The governor challenged them to pass a budget by April 1.

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