Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It is past time to do better for students

“We can do better, we must do better, we will do better. Let’s invest in the future, let’s re-imagine our classrooms for the next generation, let's have the smartest classrooms in the nation because our children deserve nothing less than the best.” —Governor Andrew Cuomo (2014 State of the State)

I happen to agree with the Governor: our children deserve nothing less than the best.

Unfortunately, that is not what they have received during the past several years. Watervliet’s students, like many others growing up in small cities and rural towns across the state, have been and continue to be shortchanged when it comes to receiving the high-quality education they not only deserve, but also need to thrive in a highly-competitive workforce and to become productive citizens of New York State.

An important point missing from Governor Cuomo’s speech is that more than $387 million in state aid to education has been withheld from public schools in our region over the past four years because of a measure the state has used to close its budget deficits called the Gap Elimination Adjustment (or GEA).

New York State has used the GEA to balance its own budget shortfall—at the expense of every child in the state. In Watervliet, this equates to a loss of $4 million in aid that we would have received, if not for the GEA. As a result, our schools have been forced to cut programs, eliminate jobs, increase class sizes and defer vital technology improvements and other instructional necessities.

In addition to the GEA, a persistent lack of state leadership on equitable school funding and the failure to achieve real mandate relief continues to cripple our ability in Watervliet to preserve the academic programs students need to be college and career ready upon graduation.

It’s the time of year when my focus turns to developing next year’s school budget. If nothing is done to eliminate the GEA, our schools will again suffer staff and program reductions to offset the loss of state aid for a fifth consecutive year—that is unless all of us take immediate action to stop it.


I invite you to join me and others who are concerned about the plight of our schools and public education funding in general, for a regional advocacy event—New York schools STILL in fiscal peril: Our kids can’t wait another year—on Thursday, January 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Colonie Central High School.

This event follows last year’s highly successful advocacy forum that brought together students, parents, teachers, taxpayers, legislators and school leaders to talk about what is at stake if state leaders take no action to eradicate the GEA and fix the broken system so that our schools receive adequate and equitable funding from the state.

At this year’s event, we will again call for an end to the GEA as we hear directly from students, teachers, parents and school leaders as they describe how the funding crisis has affected programs and opportunities that are important to them and their communities.

If you would like to attend this important forum, please call my office at 629-3201, or email

Save the date! Show your support for ours schools on January 30.