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NY Legislature

Members of the New York Assembly work on passing legislation at the state Capitol last year.

Because Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed education funding falls a bit short this year, it's going to be important for our representatives in Albany to do all they can to help area school districts get more money out of this year's state budget.

With a slew of expensive initiatives on his wish list but a significant budget deficit to close, Cuomo appears to be looking to save some money when it comes to school aid this year.

Following two years of more than 6-percent increases in foundation aid ($1.3 billion for 2015-16 and $1.5 billion for 2016-17) the plan this time around is for a 3-percent increase of $769 million.

Area educators say that just won't be enough.

Auburn superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo lamented that Auburn's potential for a 1.38-percent increase in foundation aid could mean that "one of the poorest" districts in the state will get a smaller increase than some of the wealthier ones.

Skaneateles' Ken Slentz said that his district's potential 0.25-percent increase is "hardly a consideration for increasing costs."

And Port Byron, where a local lottery player's windfall may be artificially making the district appear wealthier than it is, could actually see an overall cut in aid next year.

A cut in aid would certainly cause problems, but tiny increases will also likely result in programming and staffing being cut or school districts asking local taxpayers to pick up a larger burden of financing quality education.

It was telling that two of the highest-ranking education officials in the Cuomo administration expressed concerns earlier this month when the governor's state aid proposal came out. Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa and State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia issued a joint statement that pointed out the executive proposal called for less than half of what the Regents had said was needed.

"We need to invest in the education of all New York State students," they said. "The Regents State Aid request would ensure schools continue to improve and better prepare our children while also acknowledging the State’s fiscal realities."

Education professionals need to continue to lobby for fair and equitable funding — and our local representatives in Albany are going to be key to getting that message through to legislative leaders.

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