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Utica City School District reacts to State Budget Proposal

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Utica City School District reacts to State Budget Proposal
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In his proposed budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the designation of billions of dollars for education. It includes initiatives like universal full day Pre-K, after school activities and more technology in classrooms. And while this is good news for educators, Time Warner Cable News Reporter Cara Thomas tells us some school districts say they could really use that money elsewhere.

UTICA, N.Y. -- As a Junior at Thomas Proctor High School in Utica, Trinh Truong is doing everything she can to be college-ready. But it's difficult when the quality of education at her school district is lacking. She says teachers and the administration aren't to blame.

"We have really large class sizes, we don't have the technology we need in order to educate our students fully and as Mr. Karam has stated our enrollment keeps increasing as funding is decreasing," said Truong.

For years, the Utica City School District has found itself in a grave situation. More than 300 faculty positions have been cut in order to balance multi-million dollar budget deficits.

District Superintendent, Bruce Karam said he had hoped this year would look a little different. But after hearing the Governor's budget proposal, he was extremely disappointed.

He said, "The plan calls for no increase in foundation aid which has been the major contributor to the historical under-funding of our district."

In the state's proposed budget, more than $2 billion will be used for education with about a $600 million increase in state aid. Utica School Administrators say that falls far short of what they need to survive. The school was hoping for an increase close to $13 million, instead they'll only be getting $4 million.

Karam said, "Since the other end of it, the basic level of aid is not where it should be to operate a large school district like this with such a high needs, low wealth, and economic disadvantage, it's not good enough obviously."

Teachers, administration, and students in the Utica City School District say they're asking state government to reevaluate the root of their problem: the state aid formula. They say if nothing changes many more devastating cuts are in their future.

Utica School District officials and members of the Alliance for Quality Education say receiving additional state aid would not only save jobs, but would help schools get back in track with the Campaign for Fiscal Equality: an initiative to close the financial gap between rich and poor districts.

The Utica School District is currently the 5th poorest district in the state.

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