The Schenectady City School District will receive an additional $500,000 in state funding for new teachers.
Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, and Phil Steck, D-Colonie, announced the discretionary aid during a news conference Monday morning at Schenectady High School.
Superintendent Laurence Spring said the $500,000 would be used to add a handful of new positions for the 2015-16 school year, including about three intervention and reading specialists and two music teachers, both on the elementary level. Spring said the funding would also go toward one clerical position.
“We have cut from all of these areas in the last six years,” Spring said. “Over the years we have also been scaling back on the fine arts program with a waiting list for students. But the program engages students and gets them here and gets them motivated.”
This year the district added $4 million in spending to the budget. But Schenectady schools cut $4.5 million from the budget last year, $6 million the year before that, and $8 million the year before that, Spring said.
“We’re adding back a small portion of what we have cut over the last six years,” he said. “This is not even close to all of the positions. We still have a long, hard battle to fight.”
Steck said the $500,000 in funding was secured from the state budget for his district and Santabarbara’s. Both Assembly members cover parts of the city of Schenectady — with Steck representing the 110th District and Santabarbara representing the 111th District.
Steck said 90 percent of the discretionary aid he received for his district will be going toward the city. The awarding of that annual funding has not yet been announced, along with funding for the city secured by Santabarbara.
“How to use this money is up to Larry Spring, it's not up to the government to micromanage education,” Steck said. “Districts that are underfunded are in upstate urban areas and there is a proven inadequacy in state funding.”
Spring, along with the Assembly members, stressed that the district is still shorted millions of dollars in foundation aid. Spring said under the state aid formula the district is supposed to receive an additional $62 million a year.
Spring met with officials from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights last week regarding the district’s civil rights complaint against the state about school aid distribution. The investigation related to the complaint is ongoing.
The district did receive an additional $1 million in federal aid — Title I aid — a 32 percent increase over last year. Title I aid is distributed to districts with a large percentage of children who live in poverty.
Spring contends the state’s formula to distribute school aid discriminates against districts with high concentrations of minority students. Schenectady schools’ student body is 65 percent minority.
“We certainly continue to press the case,” Spring said. “I continue to be amazed at how many people don’t really know or understand what is happening with the equalization of foundation aid and the distribution of that formula based on race.”