1-13: Governor Cuomo's 'New' NY Education Reform Commission has released its preliminary report, (since being formed last April). It made 8 key recommendations, including this one: "Pursue efficiencies such as district consolidation, high school regionalization and shared services to increase student access to educational opportunities". Since Wilson is a rural school district and has experienced declining enrollment, we are sure to be targeted in coming years. To view the report, please visit: http://www.governor.ny.gov/assets/documents/EducationReformCommissionReport.pdf.
12-12: Senate Bill 7486, proposed by Senator John Flanagan of Long Island (and written by the NYS Education Department), is expected to become law in 2013, making regional high schools a legal alternative to NYS schools districts looking to cut costs: http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20121223/NEWS05/712239911. Districts in St. Lawrence County (Adirondack area) have just hired Philip Martin (a former school superintendent) to conduct a feasibility study for them, to assess the costs and benefits of developing shared, regional high schools. In 2010, Mr. Martin completed a similar study for 11 schools in Wayne County (Rochester): http://www.dos.ny.gov/lg/publications/LGEProjectReports/2008/RHS_Final_Study_w-Cover7-10.pdf . In his recommendations, Martin wrote that "The conflict in the value that regional high schools offer, and the resistance to changing current school structures, must be resolved. This dialog will become easier as school enrollments decline, resources for schools become even scarcer, and opportunities that students have now begin to disappear."
11-12: - Our BOE, along with most other Boards across NYS, is being forced to consider drastic measures to make up for NYS's cut in state aid, unfunded mandates, property tax cap, and more. Over the summer, the grassroots campaign Educate NY Now! (www.educatenynow.org) was launched, and its leaders have organized a bus trip to Albany on December 5th to protest cuts and inequities. If you are interested in participating, you can hop on an already-scheduled bus, or request a stop in our area. For more information, please visit the following link: http://www.otlcampaign.org/blog/2012/10/30/take-educate-ny-now-express-albany-protest-event
3-12: One of SOS's members, Ruth Anne Buzzard, has created an online petition aimed at restoring funding for rural schools. After speaking with senator George Maziarz, Ruth created the website, and all signatures are forwarded directly to Governor Cuomo in Albany. Please consider adding your signature at: http://www.signforschools.org . Thanks to Ruth Anne for taking steps to help solve the problem of inequity in State Aid.
1-12: The following link takes you to an article that was published almost 3 years ago, in Business First, presenting 13 hypothetical school mergers that could take place in WNY: http://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/stories/2009/06/01/daily51.html?page=1. Another article, published at the same time by UB, proposes 20 hypothetical mergers, with Wilson appearing on the 'Next Up' list: http://regional-institute.buffalo.edu/Includes/UserDownloads/PolicyBrief_SchoolDistricts_June09_FINAL.pdf. Earlier last year, the #1 and #2 candidates for consolidation named in both articles (Barker and Lyndonville) ended their talks regarding a merger before getting to the public referendum stage. Two weeks ago, residents of two more districts named in both articles (Pavilion and Wyoming) voted down a merger by a close split-decision. On January 30th, residents of the Cuba-Rushford school district (another school named in both articles) will be attending a public forum to discuss the closing of the Rushford campus. Here in Wilson, we have formed our own Reorganization Committee to look into restructuring the elementary schools. Why do we point out all these examples? To help illustrate that the winds of change have been heading our way for years now, and decisions affecting the future of our district are being made today. If you are a stakeholder, and wish to give voice to your questions and concerns, there is only one way to do it: attend meetings, stay informed, inquire and be proactive about seeking out information.
1-12: Some encouraging news on the Rural Schools funding issue is that our own Senator George Maziarz recently signed a letter (along with 14 other senators), which was sent to Governor Cuomo, asking him to seek fair distribution of state aid. Thank you to all who have been answering our request to contact your legislators! To see the letter, please follow this link: Letter to Cuomo .
1-12: In the 1/8 issue of the Buffalo News, there is an opinion piece written by the Erie 1 BOCES Superintendent (Donald Ogilvie) entitled Consolidation is key to redesigning public education. (http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial-page/viewpoints/article701229.ece). Ogilvie summarizes all of the points we have been sharing regularly in our weekly emails:
- student populations across NYS have declined
- some districts are facing insolvency in the next few years
Although the Board of Regents made a promising proposal to the NYS legislature last month, for more equality in State Aid (http://lockportjournal.com/local/x1818100698/Regents-looking-at-aid-change), Ogilvie writes that we can't count on our government leaders to secure money for our students' education anymore. Instead, he proposes that all NYS schools pursue 'functional consolidation', which begins with the sharing of BOCES services (which is what WCS and Barker started doing this year, by sharing our Special Education administrative position) and ends with school districts possibly combining, especially in rural WNY. What does all this mean to you, as a supporter of Wilson Central School District? It means that inevitable, big changes are on the horizon, and our Board of Education is planning for them now. If you have a vested interest in the future of WCS, please make attending BOE meetings a top priority, to voice your input and keep up-to-date on the decision-making process. The next BOE meeting happens this Tuesday, 1/10, at 7:30 in the high school auditorium. Also happening this week, on 1/12, is the first official meeting of the District Reorganization Committee, happening at 6:30 in room 18 (adjacent to the MS/HS library). The meeting is open to the public, and the committee's task is to make a decision on the future of the two elementary schools by this March.
Additionally, please take five minutes today to copy and paste the following message into an email, requesting Senator George Maziarz to act favorably on the proposal made by the Regents of NYS, asking for equality in State Aid: [email protected].
Dear Senator Maziarz,
Last December, the NYS Board of Regents approved a proposal that would allow for more equality in state aid funding formulas. As you know, Wilson was the hardest hit in Niagara County, seeing a decrease in state aid this year by 1.4 million dollars. The proposal has now been sent to the state legislature, and I am urging you to act favorably on it, when it's voted on this month. Students across WNY are counting on you to make a renewed investment in their future, and restoring this money to them is an important first step. Thank you.
11-11: A study was just released by the Alliance for Quality Education, which stated that poor (including rural) districts across NYS received cuts two or three times larger than wealthier districts. The study is called "Back to Inequality: How Students in Poor School Districts are Paying the Price for the State Budget". Links to the report, as well as the accompanying press release and data from the 684 schools across NYS can be found here: http://www.aqeny.org/back-to-inequality-how-students-in-poor-school-districts-pay-the-price/
11-11: "An open letter to the NYS Board of Regents", written by Mark Vivacqua, District Superintendent of Herkimer BOCES: http://educationspeaks.org/2011/11/10/pov-an-open-letter-to-the-nys-board-of-regents/
11-11: "War against upstate", by James Hoffman, the Superintendent of the Fonda-Fultonville School District: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/War-against-upstate-2254697.php
10-11: "School Funding 'restoration' adds insult to injury", by Mark Gillespie for the Livingston County News on April 6th:http://thelcn.com/2011/04/school-funding-restoration-adds-insult-injury/
10-11: "Rich District, Poor District", by the editorial page of the NY Times on March 26th: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/opinion/27sun1.html
10-11: "State funding system endangers rural school districts" by Genessee Valley Superintendent Michael Glover : http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial-page/from-our-readers/another-voice/article583481.ece
10-11: "Rural school funding formula unfair, say school officials at summit": http://thedailynewsonline.com/news/article_a6fa447e-e808-11e0-a180-001cc4c03286.html
• Rural school districts, in general, have a higher cohort graduation rate (over 80%) than city schools. (City schools including NYC, Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo and Binghamton have reported graduation rates as low as 40%).
• A good portion of rural school districts are successful, despite servicing communities with poverty as high as 90%. In comparison, New York City reports greater wealth than many rural schools (many of us are below 50%) with a wealth ratio above 70%.
• A popular notion driven by Albany is that consolidating rural schools across the state is the answer to our fiscal problems. The 1994 Duncombe Study (out of Syracuse), which researched the savings possible through consolidation, is clear on its findings: New York State will not see significant costs savings through consolidation, in the long-term. The reason is because newly combined school districts would receive an incentive, or 'consolidation aid' for only the first ten years. After that, however, aid will be cut off and districts will experience a severe cut in funding, yet again. Consolidation is a temporary answer with detrimental long-term effects.
• Smaller schools provide for transparency. Local Boards of Education reflect the wishes of the community. Consolidation will cut our ability to have a say in half.
• The Wilson School District received the least amount of State Aid, among all the schools in Niagara County, for 2011-12.
• WCS has seen a reduction of over 2.2 million dollars in State Aid over the past two years. Consequently, WCS cut 16 teaching positions over the past two years.
Rural school districts are one of the success stories in public education! We have lower cost-per-pupil expenditures and higher cohort graduation rates than city schools, despite often dealing with poverty rates of 90% and higher. Rural schools have proven to be efficient and effective, yet NYS is trying to force us into consolidating and becoming larger bureaucracies.
By purposefully withholding revenue, NYS is targeting rural schools and moving to destroy one of the areas of public education that has proven to be successful. Contact your legislators today and demand equality in state aid for for rural schools!
• Michael Glover: Superintendent of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (GVEP). http://www.gvboces.org
• Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (GVEP): An organization of 22 individual school districts that are located in Genesee, Wyoming, Livingston and Steuben Counties. The GVEP is home to the recent grassroots advocacy campaign to demand equal funding for rural schools.
• Formula Fairness Campaign: Addresses discrimination against rural and small schools at the federal level.http://www.formulafairness.com
• All Children are Equal Act (ACE or H. R. 2485). A federal bill introduced in July 2011 by Republican Glenn Thompson from Pennsylvania and co-sponsored by Democrat Louise Slaughter of New York. http://www.ruraledu.org/articles.php?id=2748