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February 20, 2016

Lawmakers seek education aid hike

SchoolBob Ellis/staff photographer
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton says the state needs a $2.63 billion increase to restore the Gap Elimination Adjustment in public schools, including Cortland Junior/Senior High School, with students shown leaving the school Dec. 18, 2014.

By LEANN HLEBICA
Staff Reporter
lhlebica@cortlandstandardnews.net

State lawmakers who represent Cortland County said Friday they support increased aid to local school districts and colleges as part of the 2015-16 state budget that is due by April 1.
“There is no question in my mind that education needs to have a boost in funding,” Assemblyman Gary Finch (R-Springport) said.
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton sent letters Tuesday to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and relevant Assembly committee chairmen calling for a $2.6 billion increase in state education aid, an increase in the base or foundation aid and full restoration of the Gap EliminationAdjustment.
The GEA was enacted in 2010 to help balance the state budget by reducing aid to school districts. It continues to be an issue for public schools.
The state has reimbursed most local school districts nearly all of the funds they lost to the gap adjustment, although some still have a shortfall, Finch said.
Sen. Jim Seward said the adjustment hit Homer Central School Districtparticularly hard, and it would lose $650,742 for 2015-16 under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’sproposed budget.
Besides eliminating the GEA, Seward says aid needs to be distributed more fairly, with more foundation aid directed toward low-income districts with high needs, which describes many districts in this region.
Lifton also called for increases in funding tostate colleges, including SUNY Cortland, ratherthan another tuition increase. The state has cut fundingfor SUNY colleges by40 percent since 2009, meaning students and their families must pay a larger share. Student debt is a barrierto low-income students,Lifton said.
“SUNY was created to make sure all students capable of doing college work, no matter their family income and no matter where they live in the state, are able to get an excellent college education,” Lifton said.
“The state has to make a greater commitment and to stop relying on tuition increases to fund the SUNY system,” Seward said.
“Our SUNY colleges and community colleges received a very modest increasein the most recent budget, the community collegesneed an increase per student and SUNY does also,”Finch said.
Community colleges need more, too, Lifton said. “I urge that we add $285 per FTE (full-time equivalent) student to that budget line as well.”
Community colleges play a critical role in preparing a skilled work force, Seward said.
Previous increases in base aid for community colleges have been $50 to $100 per student. He’s wants a $250 increase this year.

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