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What you need to know for 04/23/2017

Local school districts share in pot of bullet aid

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Local school districts share in pot of bullet aid

The so-called bullet aid approved 92-37 Thursday by the Assembly has already provided a shot in the
Local school districts share in pot of bullet aid
Assemblymen Phil Steck and Angelo Santabarbara and Schenectady City School District Superintendent Lawrence Spring speak at an April press conference about school aid designated for the district in the 2014-15 state budget.
Photographer: Stacey Lauren-Kennedy

The so-called bullet aid approved 92-37 Thursday by the Assembly has already provided a shot in the arm for at least one local school district.

For the Schenectady City School District, which received $500,000, the anticipated funds were used to balance the budget in the spring.

Assemblymen Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, and Phil Steck, D-Colonie, announced the funds were coming at a press conference at the school in early April.

“We used that to help us avoid making any deeper cuts than we needed to,” said Laurence Spring, Schenectady superintendent of schools. “When we’re trying to save individual positions, $500,000 saves a number of them.”

Chris Crowley, superintendent of the Duanesburg Central School District, learned that her district received an additional $50,000 on Friday.

“It’s always wonderful to get some money in these tight times,” she said. “It was a surprise, so we’ll just have to have some conversations about what are our biggest priorities.”

Santabarbara helped secure $730,000 for six of the 10 school districts he represents. In addition to the funds given to the Schenectady and Duanesburg school districts, Schalmont received $75,000, Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville received $30,000, Fort Plain received $50,000 and Berne-Knox-Westerlo received $25,000.

The funds are in addition to the local districts’ share of the $1.1 billion increase in education aid in the 2014-15 state budget.

“This money is another step in my effort to ensure that our schools have the resources they need to provide our students a high-quality education,” Santabarbara said. “Hopefully these funds, in addition to the millions in additional state aid I secured in the state budget, will help ease the local tax burden and restore previous school budget cuts.”

Steck, who also represents Schenectady, also helped secure $100,000 for South Colonie.

“The district is very appreciative of the support of Assemblyman Steck, and this member item helps us to alleviate some of the losses caused by reduced state aid,” said Jonathan Buhner, South Colonie superintendent of schools, in a statement. “We thank the Assembly for their dedication to public education and the children of South Colonie.”

At Duanesburg, the funds could go toward a number of programs in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, Crowley said. The money could be used to help continue to fund a math coach, who worked with teachers this past year and helped the district boost its trigonometry Regents scores. It could also help fund the district’s new Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program.

“When you’re a small school, $50,000 is a lot,” Crowley said. “It can go a long way to help the kids, so we’re appreciative.”

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, voted against the bullet aid measure. None of the school districts he represents, which include Scotia-Glenville and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, received funding.

“It was more a vote against the process, not necessarily the schools that got some assistance,” he said.

Bullet aid, which has been called “education pork” by opponents, is controlled by the majority parties in the Assembly and Senate, rather than using a formula based on need. The 2014-15 budget gave the Democratic-led Assembly $23 million in bullet aid to allocate and the Republican-led Senate $19 million.

“That’s no way to use taxpayers’ dollars,” Tedisco said. “It’s all partisan.”

Also receiving funds in the Capital Region were Cohoes ($50,000), Watervliet ($50,000) and Voorheesville ($10,000).

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