A lot has been written (and rightly so) about teacher layoffs in districts like Schenectady and Albany – the result of the state withholding school aid due to revenue shortfalls.
But what of the immediate consequences of withholding 20 percent of state aid for some rural school districts that have little or no fund balance?
That’s the situation facing Hartford Central Schools. According to the Glens Falls Post Star, a 20% reduction in state aid will mean losing 12% of the district’s entire budget.
David Little, executive director of the Rural Schools Association of New York State, says he hears a similar refrain from his members.
“This is just way too much out of our budget at once for anything but remote learning,” he said they tell him. “And remote learning will simply allow them to fire their teachers’ aides.”
The real danger, Little says, is what happens after these districts lay off their teachers’ aides.
“We are already providing the state minimum of mandated curriculum. So, if we have to lay off anybody, it’s not like we have three sections of math. We’re small little districts. We have a [single] math teacher. So, if I have to lay off the math teacher, we just don’t have math,” Little explains.
No math means that students are no longer receiving the state-mandated curriculum to graduate.
“We are at the point where, the state, if it continues on this path, it’s simply not upholding its constitutional requirement to provide a sound basic education,” Little said.
Little argues that the current state 20% across-the-board funding reduction is systematically preventing small rural schools from living up to their constitutional requirement.
“The state has thrown all of its eggs into the ‘we need federal money’ basket,” he said. “It hasn’t gone to any sort of a plan B or explored any sort of a plan B, because it wants to put as much political pressure on Washington as possible. I understand the strategy, but it’s a game of chicken with children’s lives.”