New York State Exposed Education: Gap Elimination Adjustments

Posted at: 05/19/2014 6:28 AM
Updated at: 05/19/2014 11:03 PM
By: Nikki Rudd

Tuesday is the day that many people will vote on school budgets.  Some school districts are looking to increase property tax rates, while others are cutting teachers and programs due to cuts in state funding. Some school leaders are calling the cuts “a crime” and say the children are the ones who suffer. But there are others who think school districts do get enough funding.

The education reductions are called gap elimination adjustments. In 2010, lawmakers took money that was allocated to schools and used it to balance the state budget. Since then, area schools say they have lost out on hundreds of millions of dollars. For one local district, that means the quality of education is at risk.  

Trina Newton is the superintendent of the Geneva City Schools. 

Trina Newton said, “I hope that people are paying attention to what's going on. What is happening in New York State is a crime.”

She says critical cuts are being made in her district this year because of gap elimination adjustments. Over the past four years, the state has taken away nearly $10 million from Geneva City Schools.

Trina Newton said, “They are taking away opportunities. They are taking away the possibility of our children being competitive in a global world.”

Under the proposed budget, nine teachers will be cut, along with teacher aides and assistants. A school resource officer will also be cut.

Kason Morrison is concerned about safety in the schools. He graduates in June and has two little sisters in the district. 

Kason Morrison said, “I have a lot of family here. I love this school and I love this town. I don't want to see it go downhill because of a lot of budget cuts that really don't make any sense.”

If the budget passes, Geneva Schools would go from having two school resources officers to just one. It's a concern for a lot of students.

Mark Pitifer said, “Having to get rid of an SRO certainly does decrease safety. When you look into it, the stress is on the board and it's from the state. It's coming from the state.”

News10NBC went to State Assemblyman Joe Morelle for answers. He voted yes to the gap elimination adjustments. 

Assemblyman Joe Morelle said, “I think every district in the state wants more money from the state of New York and there are limits to what the state can do.”

Morelle says New York contributes more money to students than any other state in the country. 

Morelle said, “It seems to me if schools in the other 49 states can survive on less  then I think the degree to which we're able to make investments ought not to be criticized, but looked at in terms of the context of what everyone else can do.”

Superintendent Newton says the district has been making significant cuts each year. Now, it's starting to hurt students. 

Newton said, “It really boils down to the fact that there were promises made to school districts that once there was a surplus the funding would be restored. That did not happen this year.”

Assemblyman Morelle says the hope is to fully eliminate the cuts over the next two or three years. 

Morelle said, “We're trying to make the best investments we can make in education, but we have a lot of other competing interests and we're trying to balance them out.”

A lot of school leaders, parents and students believe education should be a top priority. 

Morrison said, “I mean I watch the news every day. You see Rochester going down. A lot of schools are not working out very well. I mean it's hard to say, but the rate we're going, we'll be the next ones if we don't get help here.”

Superintendent Newton is optimistic about Geneva City Schools. She has seen major improvements.  But when it comes to the budget cuts this year, she wants the community to know.

Newton said, “My hands are tied and that we can't continue offering them the programming they deserve, so I do feel helpless.”

This is not just a concern in Geneva. In Monroe County alone, public schools have lost nearly $413 million from the gap elimination adjustments.