North Country Symposium April 7 explores role of education

Dear North Country Friend,


If you have already registered for the North Country Symposium, we look forward to your involvement on the 7th.


If you haven’t, we have good news for you – you can still register here.


We urge you to do so.


This year’s Symposium will be held at St. Lawrence University’s Eben Holden Conference Center on April 7th and will address the theme of “Education, Community, and Economic Development.”


At this important event, we will explore:

  • How our schools contribute to the economic development and well-being of our communities;
  • What students need now to prepare for college, the workforce, and the world ahead;
  • How schools can effectively deliver services to those students; and
  • Ways in which community stakeholders can engage with schools to expand opportunities for students – and what they get in return.


You don’t want to miss this timely and important Symposium.


Please join us for a day of speakers, panels, and small group discussions.  A hearty lunch will be provided, and registering has never been easier than at our new website. Register online here.


We look forward to your involvement on the 7th.



Ben Dixon

Administrative Coordinator for the Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley


Coordinator of Regional Development

Coordinator for the North Country Symposium

St. Lawrence University

Vilas Hall 113, Canton, NY 13617

office: 315-229-5664

Fax: 315-229-7430




Statewide School Finance Consortium

Education funding advocate Dr. Rick Timbs urges all stakeholders [parents, students, educators, communities] to demand equity for ALL students.  See his take on the impact of the Senate’s Education Funding Proposal here



Please call the Governor and selected State Legislators on Wednesday, March 12.  Names, numbers and possible talking points follow:

  • Governor Cuomo: 518-474-8390
  • Senator Ritchie: 518-455-3438
  • Assemblymember Russell: 518-455-5545
  • Senator Skelos (Senate Majority Coalition Leader): 518-455-3171
  • Senator Klein (Independent Democratic Caucus and Majority Coalition Co-Leader): 518-455-3595
  • Senator Flanagan (Senate Education Committee Chair): 518-455-2071
  • Senator DeFrancisco (Senate Finance Committee Chair): 518-455-3511
  • Assemblymember Silver (Assembly Speaker): 518-455-3791
  • Assemblymember Nolan (Assembly Education Committee Chair): 518-455-4851


I am calling on you to support ending the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) THIS YEAR and take a critical step toward more equitable funding for schools across the state.  The GEA has put our school in fiscal and educational crisis.

[Insert your school information if you are not from Canton]

GEA CUT MUCH HIGHER THAN STATE AVERAGE: From 2009-2015, if the Governor’s budget is enacted, Canton will have experienced a decrease of $7910 per pupil, one of the highest per-pupil district decreases in the state (the state average per pupil cut is $2895).

LOSS OF STAFF AND PROGRAMS: With the elimination of over 50 faculty and staff positions Canton has lost 25% of our workforce and 37 curricular offerings.

LACK OF RESOURCES AND ANOTHER HUGE GAP: Unlike wealthier districts, Canton cannot absorb these huge losses in state aid.  To offset the last two-year cuts, Canton would have had to raise taxes by over 60%.  Looking ahead to 2014-15, Canton is facing a projected deficit of $2.5 million.

HIGH PERFORMING SCHOOL, BUT FOR HOW MUCH LONGER?: According to publications such as Business First and US News and World Report, Canton is one of the highest performing schools in the North Country.  Continued drastic cuts will leave us unable to provide even a “sound, basic education.”

EQUITABLE FUNDING NECESSARY FOR A SOUND, BASIC EDUCATION: We believe New York State must meet its obligation to provide a sound, basic education by adjusting the school funding formula so that funding – and cuts – are administered equitably and fairly.

SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION IS KEY TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN THE NORTH COUNTRY: The state has invested generously in North Country business and economic development. Support for education must be a part of economic development policies. (or: Not equitably supporting education will undermine these economic development investments.) However, education is more than a business investment; it is an investment in the future. It will ultimately pay dividends that benefit our community, state, and society as a whole. We urge you to invest on our schools – to fund ALL schools fairly.

Click here for this information in handout form

A critical time for our voices to be heard again!


. . . that the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) is costing our students their opportunity for a sound and basic education . . . ESPECIALLY students in less wealthy areas. [See Tale of 2 Schools Flier and this video: The GEA Explained (2 mins)]

Schools such as Canton Central and Potsdam Central, along with less wealthy schools throughout New York State, continue to face significantly greater budget gaps than they can overcome due to the GEA.

Now there is movement throughout the state to END THE GEA!

Many voices are calling for an end to the GEA.  In the Senate,  Senator Patty Ritchie and several others have joined Senator John Flanagan to propose a bill ending it within three years. In the Assembly, Assemblyman Edward Hennessy has proposed a bill that is co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Addie Russell among others, to end the GEA immediately.

. . .but we need to add our voices once again to make it happen THIS YEAR!

What can I do to help?

  • Write or email Governor Cuomo and our legislators on or before March 10th to express your concerns.  Ask them to END the GEA THIS YEAR and FIX the FUNDING FORMULA!
  • Call each of the following sometime on Wednesday, March 12, 2014:
    • Governor Cuomo: 518-474-8390
    • Senator Ritchie: 518-455-3438
    • Assemblymember Russell: 518-455-5545
    • Senator Skelos (Senate Majority Coalition Leader): 518-455-3171
    • Senator Klein (Independent Democratic Caucus and Majority Coalition Co-Leader): 518-455-3595
    • Senator Flanagan (Senate Education Committee Chair): 518-455-2071
    • Senator DeFrancisco (Senate Finance Committee Chair): 518-455-3511
    • Assemblymember Silver (Assembly Speaker): 518-455-3791
    • Assemblymember Nolan (Assembly Education Committee Chair): 518-455-4851

Our work is not done!

Although there were small improvements to the original funding proposals from the Governor`s office, the distribution of aid remains inequitable and districts like ours continue to bear a greater burden due to the continued use of the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) and an inequitable funding formula.

HOWEVER, there is growing awareness statewide and legislators are talking about this issue due to the efforts of parents, students and teachers ever more communities.   We should continue to email, write and phone legislators to call on them to address equity in state aid.

Other options exist to get officials to deal with this issue.  Concerned community members, parents, teachers and students are invited to join other School Education Advocates in Albany on June 8 to rally for education reform!  This is an opportunity to speak with a very loud voice as there will be thousands coming from all parts of the state to address funding and testing issues.

THe New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) organization is providing buses but they need to know right away how many people are going.

If you would like to attend, please contact Kayla French ASAP at .

The goal is to get thousands to attend – let’s be sure that the North Country is there!

Budget Update

As promised, here are two updates on the budget outcome. Some good news, but not great.

Here is an update from Barb Beekman, Canton School Board President:

The school aid numbers have been released. Canton’s Gap Elimination Adjustment GEA) is, again, a $2.1 million reduction. The GEA restoration is $555,497, an increase of $260,480 over the Govenor’s budget. Foundation aid increased $33,201 (this had stayed the same in the Govenor’s budget). While any increase is welcome, our net GEA reduction of $1.5 million will be a challenge to overcome. The BOE will now begin assessing all potential solutions to close this gap.

The budget also includes language that eliminates the artificial “floor” on one wealth indicator. This had been a disadvantage to any district that had a wealth indicator lower than that floor (almost all North Country districts). Unfortunately, the foundation aid has been frozen for several years and the effect of this change will not be evident until they use current data to calculate foundation aid.

Here is the update from Patrick Brady, Potsdam Central School Superintendent:

With the increase in Foundation aid and reduction of the Gap Elimination adjustment the state legislature has provided approximately $397,000 in additional revenues to Potsdam Central School over the Governor’s earlier proposal. This brings are overall aid increase in 2013-14 to $424,080 beyond the aid provided in the 2012-13 school year.

This additional aid will be helpful in restoring some of the staff and programs we had targeted for cuts in 2013-14 and I appreciate the work of our legislators in helping to obtain this needed support. The fact that most of the aid increases were produced by lowering the Gap Elimination Adjustment rather than increasing the inequitable Foundation Aid formula indicates an awareness of the issues which are causing are schools to struggle. It also signals that the work of our parent groups and other school advocates are beginning to be heard. But we have lost millions of dollars over these past four years and until the state is willing to abolish the entire GEA schools like Potsdam will continue to face being on the brink of insolvency. We need mandate relief and other long term solutions which will help us to save staffing and programs so we can provide the same high quality opportunities for our students as can be found in any other region of the state.

News roundup:

State aid increase not enough for many NNY school districts

Canton district receives more money, but still faces large shortfall

Commentary:  We got peanuts and the Senate Majority leader gloats:

From Newsday:
Long Island school districts will receive a collective $121 million increase in school aid — more than 5 percent on average — under the new budget, Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said Tuesday.

Skelos, the legislature’s top Republican, said lawmakers added $58 million in operating aid for Long Island schools above what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed in January. They also blocked a Cuomo proposal to reduce a category of school funding called “high tax aid.” Island schools could have lost more than $40 million, more than any other region in the state.

Together, the additions brought the Island’s “share” of school aid to 12.96 percent, Skelos said, matching what it traditionally receives.

The Island will also receive hikes in state aid for bus service and highway aid.

“So it’s a win for Long Island,” Skelos declared.


Call Tuesday – no budget yet!

There is still time to call – the budget is not done!

We got great feedback that people are calling – THANK YOU!

Call Senators Griffo and Ritchie and:

  • Ask them to fight to re-assign Canton and Potsdam as high needs districts
  • Senator Ritchie does not have a co-sponsor for her bill, nor has she shared the financial impact. Ask her to find a co-sponsor and get the data out there. 
  • Ask them both to sign on to Addie Russell’s school aid reform legislation – NOW.

Potsdam – Joe Griffo: (518) 455-3334
Canton – Patty Ritchie: (518) 455-3438

Call these Senators to urge them to:

  • Reclassify Canton (Potsdam for Potsdam folks) as high needs schools
  • Get the formula reform language that is in the Assembly budget proposal (the end of the .65 floor) — into the final budget
  • End the GEA

John Flanagan (Ed committee chair): 518-455-2071

Jeffrey Klein (Independent Democratic Caucus): (518) 455-3595

Senator Tom Libous (upstate caucus): (518) 455-2677

We know there are many Senators to call – do as much as you can. One call is more than no call!

Thank you.