Capital Conference focus on NY's school spending

Posted at: 03/10/2013 3:29 PM
Updated at: 03/10/2013 3:32 PM
By: Dan Bazile

Hundreds of school board members and advocates spent the weekend in Albany discussing a wide range of topics on behalf of students. Their main focus this year at the annual Capital Conference is more school aid and a better system to hand it out.

New York's public schools spend more than the national average to educate each student, according to the Citizens Budget Commission. But for Timothy Kremer, executive director of the School Boards Association, that doesn't exactly explain why schools across the state are having financial problems.

“The way it's being distributed is really the key. Everybody feels as though they're just not getting enough,” says Kremer.

Kremer says school districts are also feeling the pinch because of rising mandated costs like healthcare, pensions, energy and special education.

“We have a property tax cap. We have a cap on state aid. We have mandates that have not been relieved. You have all kinds of new costs associated with teacher, principal evaluations,” he says.

That's why Kremer says there's probably more angst this year than he's ever seen before at the annual Capital Conference. More than 200 school board members and other advocates gathered at Hotel Albany all weekend for the event. Teacher evaluations and school safety were also on the agenda.

Kremer says school funding was by far the biggest issue. He says they've done all they can to cut costs. And even though there's a proposed increase in state aid this year, it won't solve the problem.

“We've optimized the resources we had. We've come up with innovative delivery systems. We've negotiated concessions in our contracts. We've cut out budget. We've laid off staff,” says the SBA Director.

They'll be going to state lawmakers on Monday at the capitol to make their case for mandate relief and a more equitable school aid formula.