Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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School districts feeling financial crunch

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: School districts feeling financial crunch
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From school safety to making ends meet, school districts across the state are faced with more questions than answers as we move further into 2013. New York was quick to act with gun legislation, but as our Katie Husband tells us, many feel the the governor's state budget fell short in helping meet the monetary needs of districts.

ELMIRA HEIGHTS, N.Y. -- School districts like Elmira Heights aren't considered a high or low-need district, instead they're stuck in the middle.

"The average-need school district, which we are one of, and we probably have one leg over the fence into the high-need, we dip our toe over into the high-need area, but I think what's happening is those average-need school districts are the ones that are being the most adversely affected," said Mary Beth Fiore, Elmira Heights, superintendent.

For the 2013-14 budget year, the governor's proposed budget cuts close to one and a half million dollars of gap elimination assessment funds from their district. That's a number that fluctuates from district to district. To help off-set any potential program cuts due to less funding, Cuomo is pushing for longer schools days or year the cost of which the state would fund.

Local school district officials have concerns with extending the school day and year, and it starts with the simple question of, how much a student can actually handle?

"We've eliminated all the down time in many students' day because we're trying to hit those targets and have them, the student achievement because obviously, that's our ultimate goal." said Fiore.

But it's a method educators have looked at for years, according to Fiore and Barbara Fiala, who's a member of Governor Cuomo's cabinet.

"They score better not just in the first years but as they go on, as far as math and English and sciences," said Barbara Fiala, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, commissioner.

But, for the Elmira Heights District they're more focused on how to provide a quality education without changes to the calendar or cuts to more programs.

"A decision about a fine balance between what is our educational program going to look like, how much does it cost to pay for that and what kind of efforts would we have to expect from our local community as far as the local tex levy because we're not getting it from the state," said Fiore.

School districts across the state will be voting on their budgets in mid-May.

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