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Really want to help? Fix the school aid formula

Really want to help? Fix the school aid formula

Grant is just pork that doesn't address Schenectady's underfunded aid

It's hard to think of a $500,000 grant for your struggling local school district as part of a problem.

But the recent education grant awarded to the Schenectady school district is exactly what's wrong with New York state government.

The grant that Schenectady received Monday, with the help of Assemblymen Phil Steck and Angelo Santabarbara, is part of a large pool of discretionary education funding set aside in the state budget by the Assembly.

It's money that had no specific purpose, other than that it be used for education.

Well, that's not totally true. It did have a purpose, and that was to make state lawmakers look good by making them appear that they've accomplished something.

There's no question Schenectady schools could use every dollar they can get. The district has a lot of problems, largely based in poverty, that have put it behind other districts in test scores, graduation rates and other measures of educational success.

Money for teachers, reading specialists, aides, meals and facilities will help solve a lot of those problems.

But the ballyhoo over this grant is like the Grinch trumpeting his return to Whoville, acting the part of the conquering hero when all he’s doing is bringing back the presents he just stole from everybody.

This grant is a small portion of the money the district should have gotten in aid because of its social and financial situation and its unmet needs.

Schenectady Superintendent Larry Spring has said his district receives only about 55 percent of the state aid to which it is entitled. If the district received its rightful allocation from the state, he claims, it would see an additional $62 million a year.

This $500,000 will allow the district to make up some ground, but it's a drop in the bucket, not nearly enough.

The way to solve problems with inadequate school aid isn't with one-time gifts designed to give politicians something to post on their Twitter accounts. It's done by creating a fair and rational education aid formula that provides adequate support for struggling school districts like Schenectady's — the kind of formula that the superintendent keeps begging for and for which our representatives in Albany have yet to provide.

If lawmakers want to do more than just look good, they'll address and fix the real problem with inadequate school aid.

This grant should be considered a down payment, not a prize.

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