Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell (D-Theresa) announced today that she has introduced legislation to address inequities in the state’s school aid formula. The key aspect of the legislation will adjust the arbitrary floor and ceiling of the wealth ratio in the formula. Many North Country schools are affected by the floor imposed in the formula because it treats schools with wealth ratios below .65 as if that were their wealth ratio - even though many local wealth ratios fall well below that number. Similarly at the high end of the scale, wealthy schools are allowed to appear poorer than they are, driving school aid to schools that do not need the funds. The legislation will lower the floor of the wealth ratio used in the school aid formula to .25 and increase the ceiling to 3.0. The average wealth ratio across the state is 1.0.
“At a time when resources are scarce, we must review our policies to ensure they continue to work in practice,” Russell said. “When school funding increases, the inequity in the formula is not as problematic, but when funding is cut, the problem is serious,” she added. “Local schools are feeling the brunt of the cuts while wealthy school districts are essentially unaffected,” she stated.
Russell is also an advocate for enacting a true millionaire’s tax as a compromise to the current millionaire’s tax that is set to expire at the end of December.
“The revenue from the wealthy can get our state’s educational system back on the right track,” Russell insisted. “We need to be able to stop further cuts, and reverse the inequitable school aid distribution,” she explained. “If we do not commit to reforms now and make the tough decisions necessary to fix the inequities, the problem will only grow, making it that much more difficult and expensive to overcome in the future,” she concluded.
Russell arranged for six area school superintendents to meet with high level assembly budget staff earlier this week. “It was important for us to inform the budget staff about what the cuts actually mean for our students,” Russell stated. “You cannot generalize how cuts impact schools because the reality is that our schools are being hurt to a much larger degree than in wealthy areas,” she stated. “Some local districts have been cut roughly $2,000 per student, while other, very wealthy areas of the state were cut less than $500 per student,” she explained. “Early advocacy on this issue is critical, and especially timely if we are called back to Albany this month to address the current years’ budget deficit,” she concluded.