1500 turn out attend rally to address school funding gap - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

1500 turn out attend rally to address school funding gap

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GREENBUSH, N.Y. – It's a message heard from school districts every year, but this year school leaders are saying the budget crisis is even worse – and Thursday night, 47 school districts from across the Capital Region are joining forces to say they need a break.

A coalition of parents, educators, school board members and business owners met at the Columbia High School auditorium for the rally "Your Public Schools in Fiscal Peril - Running Out of Time & Options."

More than 1500 people attended, from dozens of different districts, but all with the same purpose -- to draw attention to what many are calling a huge crisis in schools, saying money has run out.

"Despite attempts by our governor, we're still losing ground," says Dr. Rick Timbs, the executive director of the statewide school finance consortium, and also the keynote speaker of the event.

Dr. Timbs says the bills are due, the state mandates are not going away and the state aid is shrinking.

"We're struggling," he says. "We're looking down the road at possible fiscal and educational insolvency over the next one to two years for a number of districts, maybe over 100."

"These unfunded mandates are a real problem for these schools," says Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin.  "They're being forced to spend money on stuff which they shouldn't have to or maybe we don't need."

"Their expenses keep going up and at the same time we're trying to tell them to do it with the same amount of money," adds Senator Neil Breslin.  "It doesn't work."

"Unless something breaks, you can't lay off the same staff member more than once, you can't cut the same program more than once," Dr. Timbs says.

He does acknowledges Governor Cuomo allocated money in this year's budget for education, but he says that doesn't make up for the past four years of cuts.

"If I give you a raise after diminishing your pay, it's hardly really a raise," Dr. Timbs adds.  

In his presentation, Dr. Timbs also addressed the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which he says is still affecting school districts.  Dr. Timbs says the GEA was put into place four years ago when the state was grappling with a huge deficit.  In turn, money was taken away from education to fill other gaps, but to this day has never been put back.

"We're actually using our own hard earned money to support our own budget; because there is no state money coming at the volume we need it."

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