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Rick Timbs, executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium, speaks at a legislative forum at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES in Aurelius Jan. 27.

Rick Timbs of the Statewide School Finance Consortium told Cayuga County-area educators and state representatives that New York state places financial burdens on less affluent school districts because of an unfair state aid distribution formula.

That was five years ago.

Last week, Timbs said much the same thing. In fact, similar meetings are held just about every year, and the overall concern of school districts always sounds about the same: we need more state aid.

But because Port Byron's concerns might not exactly align with Auburn's or Southern Cayuga's, it isn't enough to call for change. The tricky part is to make something concrete happen.

This time around, the state representatives put the onus on the school districts to define exactly what they want to see changed.

"What can we do to make your districts less costly?" state Sen. John DeFrancisco asked. Come up with a list of your top five concerns, state Sen. Pam Helming suggested.

We are used to hearing members of the Assembly and Senate (especially  Republicans) put all the blame for school finance issues on Gov. Andrew Cuomo (a Democrat). But the job of representing people is putting in some work on their behalf, not simply showing up at meetings.

But there is a point to be made that elected officials can't help if they don't know exactly what it is they're being asked to do.

We suggest that local school superintendents work together on developing a strategy and narrow their focus to a short list of very specific changes they want made to the state aid distribution formula. If the school districts in the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES brought a focused and unified voice to their state representatives, those representatives might have a better chance of getting something accomplished.

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.

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