Speaker says Yates schools are underfunded
PENN YAN—The Yates County Chamber of Commerce hosted guest speaker Dr. Rick Timbs of the Statewide School Finance Consortium (SSFC) to discuss the differences in school budget finances Thursday, Sept. 27. During his lecture, he spoke of how things need to change in New York State to ensure every child receives an equal education, because those from poorer school districts are behind compared to those from wealthier districts. Timbs said the SSFC has an advocacy toolkit posted on their website, and that school districts need to make their voices heard by legislators in Albany for any of the school funding issues to be fixed.
“The way people have been promised money and it never shows up has become a problem,” Timbs said.
Timbs said during the 2007-08 school year, the state had promised to divide up $5.5 billion in aid for districts that would be phased in the next four years. He said schools received 37.5 percent of that money before it was frozen at that level by the state after two years due to the state not having enough money. Timbs said that frozen amount was actually later reduced by the state and is currently frozen at that level as well.
Timbs kept pointing out the Combined Wealth Ratio (CWR) during his speech, which combines the property and income wealth of a school district and compares it to what they get from the state. Timbs said the wealthiest of the Yates County school districts was right on the 1.25 line, but that the overall range of schools in the state goes from as low as 0.5 to as high as 45. He said just having a ratio of two means the district is getting twice the level of state wealth.
Timbs said there are school districts in the state who are being over funded while others are going without. One graph showed Dundee is currently at 77 percent funding, Gorham-Middlesex is funded at 88 percent and Penn Yan is funded at 98 percent. He then compared them to Fire Island’s school district, which is funded at 2,092 percent, while they do not even have a measurable poverty level in the community.
Timbs then compared the districts of East Rockway and Gorham-Middlesex from last year, saying how East Rockway is twice as wealthy, yet only lost $224 per student in state funding, while Gorham-Middlesex lost $792 per student. Timbs kept saying how state funding to school districts was “equal, but not fair,” and that poorer school districts are “being disadvantaged six ways from Sunday.”
He said because of this, valedictorians of poorer schools have trouble getting into schools like Geneseo because their transcripts are so thin due to program cuts, while students from wealthier districts have transcripts “a mile long.”
Timbs said the funding comes from the state budget that is passed every year, and that the only way to fix these funding issues is through preemptive action. The advocation toolkit posted on the SSFC website provides the contact information for the key personnel in Albany responsible and urges schools to get in contact with them to demand fair funding across all districts.