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State plan for school aid

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: State plan for school aid
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State legislators will begin hearings next week on Governor Andrew Cuomo's new budget plan. A lot of attention will focus on education spending. While the school budget plan initially drew general praise, YNN's Bill Carey says there are some in the field who say the Cuomo plan doesn't go far enough.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The Governor says it's a change in course for New York State. After years of cutbacks, he says he is steadily growing state aid to education. While his overall budget calls for state spending to rise by less than two percent, Cuomo's plan calls for nearly four percent more spending for schools.

In the West Genesee School District, there is money to support full day kindergarten, along with a general aid boost of just under three percent. After three years that brought more than 150 layoffs, the superintendent welcomes the plan.

“We have 8.5 percent unemployment in our county and I look at that and I say, I think this is probably the best they can do today. And compared to where we were three years ago, I'm not going to be complaining about this package,” said Dr. Christopher Brown, West Genesee School District Superintendent.

But a top school funding analyst says if you keep in mind that schools have lost $7 billion in aid in recent years, $322 million in new aid is far from being welcome news.

“So his attempt to increase it by, maybe, a billion over time, over two or three years, is certainly significant. It's important. It's a step in the right direction. But it's just too little. And for some districts, it may be too late,” said Dr. Richard Timbs, Statewide School Finance Consortium Executive Director.

Not that anyone believes the state is in a position to completely resolve the school funding question. Having dealt with massive state deficits, the governor says the state is doing all it can.

There are steps some educators think can make a difference during these years of tight budgets. Ways to help cut some skyrocketing costs.

Brown said, “What if they were able to do some true pension reform and take a look at what's already been paid in, how people have paid in in the past and can that be restructured in some way?”

And some of the experts say is may be time to take a hard look at how money is shared.

“He's got to, first, focus on where's the greatest need. We can't have formulas built on politics. We have to have them based on some logical distribution where those that need the most should probably get the most,” Timbs said.

Both educators and the Governor seem to agree that it will take years to turn things around.

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