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Not so ‘harmless’ if approved: Hochul’s proposal to end school funding provision would devastate local schools

School districts across New York are raising alarms over Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposal to end the “Save Harmless” provision. This policy has protected districts from reductions in Foundation Aid, ensuring stable funding year over year. The proposed change threatens to undo progress made in educational services and facilities since the Great Recession. Superintendents fear drastic measures, including significant tax increases and staff cuts, to compensate for potential funding losses.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

Governor Hochul defends the plan, citing the need to adjust funding based on current realities, such as declining student populations and districts sitting on substantial reserves. The administration argues that the state’s education funding formula, which hasn’t been significantly updated since 2008, needs revision to reflect current enrollment numbers and ensure efficient use of taxpayer dollars. This comes as the state faces a $4.3 billion budget gap.

Educators and union leaders push back, arguing that a simple reduction based on student numbers overlooks the complex realities of running rural and smaller school districts. They advocate for a comprehensive review of the funding formula to consider the broad spectrum of costs that do not decrease proportionally with student numbers. The debate underscores the challenge of balancing fiscal responsibility with the need to maintain quality education services, especially in communities that depend heavily on their schools for a wide range of services beyond education.

FingerLakes1.com recently sat down with Auburn Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo in a wide-ranging interview, discussing state funding, as well as a number of other issues impacting schools across the region. In his view, the state is on a track where county wide school districts will be required in the not-so-distant future. This reality is born from a need to provide better outcomes to students at a more efficient cost.