Weekly Feature

2015-02-26 / Editorial

It’s time to end the gap elimination adjustment

New York State Senator

Budget negotiations are under way in Albany as the Legislature and governor work toward passing a final spending plan by the April 1 deadline.

While there is much to discuss and debate in order to adopt a budget that best serves the residents of the state while also controlling the cost and size of government, there is one issue that I believe all New Yorkers can agree on. It’s time to end the gap elimination adjustment.

The GEA is a budget-balancing scheme that was imposed in 2010 by then-governor David Paterson and the Legislature as a way to close the state’s $10 billion deficit. It reduced education aid to all school districts based on a set formula.

Since 2010, public schools across the state have lost more than $9.5 billion in funding, and in Erie County, public schools have lost more than $63 million in the 2014-15 budget alone.

As you can imagine, nearly every school district in the state has been negatively impacted by the GEA, and school administrators and other education leaders throughout Western New York have told me that the GEA is one of the most important issues facing our schools.

Districts have been forced to lay off teachers and staff, eliminate classroom programs and cut after-school activities.

Parents, students and teachers have seen the devastating results firsthand. But they are not alone in feeling the pain caused by the GEA. The funding cuts have put an unfair burden on local taxpayers, as school boards and administrators turn to business and property owners to help balance their budgets.

In recent years, the Senate has taken major steps to ease the impact of the GEA by increasing funding to schools across the state and ensuring that these critical education dollars are distributed fairly and equitably.

This year, I join my Senate colleagues in making the elimination of this ill-conceived program a priority.

In legislation I proposed earlier this year, the GEA would be eliminated starting with the 2015-16 school year, and school districts would receive their full amount of education aid based on existing budget formulas.

We can also address the issue by making it part of the current budget process.

Gov. Cuomo has included a $1.1 billion increase in education aid in his budget proposal, and I urge him to use that money to fully fund our schools by doing away with the GEA.

Every child deserves a quality education, and this year’s budget must send a strong message that we will no longer jeopardize the future of our kids by failing to adequately invest in their education.

It’s time to abolish the GEA once and for all.

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