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Gov.'s education budget plans spark debate

ALBANY --Education advocates and state lawmakers joined Capital District superintendents, Wednesday, to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to give more state aid directly to schools.

One day after Cuomo's budget proposal, area superintendents say the governor missed an opportunity to replenish school districts with the state aid they slowly started to lose four years ago. In 2010 the Governor David Paterson called for a "Gap Elimination Adjustment", a system where school districts saw their funding scaled back to help close a then $10 billion state budget deficit.

Since that time each and every school district, state wide, has lost millions of dollars and hundreds of staff. In Cohoes the GEA cost the district $6.8 million.

"We have eliminated 21% of our total work force over the past four years." said Superintendent Robert Libby.

Governor Cuomo's budget proposal calls for $608 million in direct aid to schools over and above last years totals. However, advocates for public schools say that number falls short by over $1 billion.

"We are calling for a $1.9 billion increase in school aid." said Billy Easton, Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education.

Easton's group was joined by state lawmakers, Wednesday, who collectively said the idea to implement a universal pre-Kindergarten system is a nice thought but shouldn't be a priority.

Governor Cuomo's proposal calls for $1.5 billion in funding, over five years, to roll out a full time pre-Kindergarten system in schools that want to take part.

"Fund K through 12 first and then start looking at other programs." said Superintendent Libby.
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