Foundation Aid Fight Should Take Center Stage

State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, has fought hard and well to decrease the impact the Gap Elimination Adjustment on schools in her Senate district.

Starting this year, 94 percent of the aid taken as part of the deficit-closing measure has been restored to schools in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties. She’s right when she says the GEA should be fully restored in this year’s state budget, but we have a feeling the GEA is actually pretty low on the list of priorities for most area school districts. Making the state live up to the Foundation Aid formula is the fight that should take center stage.

Foundation aid was enacted by the state Legislature in 2007 in response to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York school funding lawsuit and was to disburse state aid according to a funding formula that took the needs of students and districts into account. As we have seen in the nearly 10 years since the foundation aid system has been in place, that is rarely the case. Jamestown, for example, has been so severely shortchanged over the years it was joined in a second school funding lawsuit with eight of its fellow small city school districts. Jamestown finds itself shorted about $11,500 in GEA aid. It is $14 million short in foundation aid, according to the Alliance for Quality Education.

The Gap Elimination Adjustment and increases in reimbursement forms of state aid are red herrings that distract from the real issue surrounding education aid. A state that is rolling in money should find a way to adequately fund its urban, high needs school districts. Voters should make sure their representatives are debating foundation aid as legislators begin negotiating a final state budget this week.