Big aid hike not the answer

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $137.2 billion state budget for 2014-15 did not earn high marks from many educators.

In the local area, most school districts will see an increase in funding. Yet, some educators said the increases will do nothing to alleviate the schools’ financial strain.

The $807 million overall school funding increase includes $682 million in general school aid, while the rest is earmarked for prekindergarten, teacher merit pay and an expansion of technical programming.

In our area, school districts will get increases in aid ranging from Lake Pleasant’s 8.4 percent increase to Edinburg’s 0.7 percent increase. The only decrease will be for the Broadalbin-Perth district, which will see its aid decline by 1.6 percent, to $11.6 million.

Before Cuomo’s executive budget was unveiled, many educators across the state were pushing for a much larger increase in state aid, up to $2 billion.

New York spends more per pupil than any other state – about $19,000 per student, compared with the national average of about $10,000, census data show. A huge increase in aid isn’t the answer to providing a better education.

The state instead should give school districts more ways to reduce costs. School administrators have pointed out for years the problems related to unfunded state mandates. The Triborough Amendment, the Wicks Law and special-education requirements are among them. Pension and personnel costs are sky high in New York schools. Giving more money to schools puts off the day state officials will have to make tough decisions.

The state has a history of throwing money at education. In that same vein, Cuomo is proposing a $2 billion bond act, subject to voter approval in November. The money would be used to bring more broadband and computers to classrooms. That’s a lot of computers and Internet access – especially when most students already have access to them.

We hope the state eventually makes an attempt to address the unfunded mandates it places on schools. Providing them with the means to cut costs will go a long way toward long-term improvements in the education system.