Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy frequently says his job would be so much easier if people would just pay their taxes. Now school Superintendent Laurence Spring has taken up a similar battle cry with the state: Give us the education aid we’re due and see how much better we can be. Both leaders are right, of course, but both are fighting uphill battles. Give Spring credit, though, for taking his fight to the right place: the top.
As a story in Wednesday’s Gazette related, Spring met with members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff Monday in an effort to persuade them that the city school district’s mediocre performance in recent years is attributable to the relatively small amount of state aid it’s been getting relative to what it’s due. As one of the state’s poorest urban districts, it should be getting more aid per student than far-wealthier districts; instead, it’s getting the lowest in the region — just 54 percent of its due under a formula imposed via court order six years ago but subsequently ignored by the Legislature.
Spring has been trying to call this to the attention of state officials almost since the day he took over last May. Unfortunately, legislators like Sen. Hugh Farley (who, based on his question to Spring about Saratoga Springs, still doesn’t seem to grasp the concept that poorer districts need more help than rich ones), haven’t been listening.
Now Spring appears to be getting somewhere. He not only got a commitment from the governor’s staffers to finally release $3.8 million in disputed transportation aid from several years back, they promised him an audience next week with top education formula wonks.
Spring is realistic: He knows that even if he manages to make the bigwigs see his point, changes will take time. The state isn’t rich enough to hold all school districts harmless as it redistributes hundreds of millions of dollars, and what legislator is likely to sit still while a constituent school district gets cut?
But getting the state to acknowledge this glaring inequity will be a big start, and Spring appears to be on the way. Nice work.
We jumped the gun in this editorial asserting that the state was going to release $3.8 million in disputed transportation aid to the Schenectady school district. Our claim was based on Wednesday’s Gazette story, which was subject to a correction on Page B2 yesterday indicating that the check isn’t in the mail quite yet. The governor’s office says it is “looking into” the state Education Department’s willingness to release the money.