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Shen looks to get early start on legislative advocacy

Shen looks to get early start on legislative advocacy

District officials look to start in-person meetings with state representatives soon after the new year
Shen looks to get early start on legislative advocacy
Superintendent Dr. L. Oliver Robinson speaks during the 66th Shenendehowa High School Commencement at SPAC.
Photographer: Erica Miller / Gazette Photographer

The Shenendehowa Central School District Board of Education and administration are getting a head start on making contact with local elected officials who will advocate to the state for the district’s needs for the upcoming school year.

At the board’s Dec. 10 meeting, Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson outlined a preliminary action plan shared a list of goals that included reaching out to the state representatives earlier than the district has in previous years, adding that he'd like to have an official correspondence sent to them by the end of the week, with face-to-face meetings slated for just after the holidays. 

“We want to get those things out early to get on their radar,” he said. “We want to try to have some of those conversations early, right after the new year.”

Robinson noted that time is of the essence to start moving on making inroads due to progressive shifts for state aid potential that have recently taken place.

In early December, the New York state Board of Regents requested an increase in state education spending by $2 billion, with a focus on boosting foundation aid by $1.9 billion.

The foundation aid increase, which would raise the amount of money distributed through the state’s core education funding formula, would be the largest amount spent on the formula since it was established in 2007.

The Regents proposal would guarantee a 1 percent increase in state aid to all districts before driving the bulk of the funding to the state’s neediest schools as determined by the foundation aid formula.

The formula accounts for student enrollment, poverty and other factors in determining how much money each district should need to deliver a “foundational” education to all of its students.

Shen received $47,986,132 in state aid for the current school year, up from last year's amount of $47,207,010.

Shen has four main legislative advocacy priorities it plans to focus on: 

  • to provide sustainable funding to support quality programs for all students
  • to ensure that students are mentally and psychologically available to learn
  • to strategically prepare students for emerging college and career options and
  • to reject any unfunded mandates and cost-shifting that is proposed in the state’s executive budget

Each of the four priorities contain a slew of smaller, more detail-oriented goals within them, such as seeing the foundation aid formula fully funded to allow for maximum possible state aid, securing more funding to provide more mental health and school safety resources for students inside and outside of school, providing more classes that give students an opportunity to directly receive college credits prior to making the transition out of high school, and fighting against funding caps on expense-based aids in school districts such as transportation and BOCES programs.

Getting in early, Robinson said, would also put Shen in a better position to respond early to legislators who could potentially say that the help they can provide to their local school districts is limited due to large constraints, like an already established state budget. 

While the board will revisit its advocacy goals at a later date once face-to-face meetings get closer, getting a foot in the door now, Robinson said, only serves to benefit Shen in the long run.

The earlier the district starts to work with legislators, he said, the higher the likelihood will be of Shen receiving a solid response, as opposed to waiting until the state budget passes to see how much state aid will come in.

“We can ask them, well, what can you do now?” he said.

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