One day before voters decide school budgets across New York state, Schenectady School District officials welcomed elected leaders to Mont Pleasant Middle School to discuss the impact of a significant funding increase.
District officials say Schenectady endured years of Foundation Aid underfunding, according to School Board President Cathy Lewis. "I remember sitting on the stairs of the capitol with some of our students, advocating for some increased aid to help them during the lean years, shall I say."
For the 2017-18 school year, the district is getting some $93 million in Foundation Aid from the state, an increase of more than $7 million over last year.
Superintendent Larry Spring says the extra funding will empower the district to hire more teachers, expand services and roll out new programs. "We're adding some special education services for students who have social and emotional disabilities. We're creating what we call an emergency crisis response team, so we're talking about a mobile crisis unity that has two social workers and a psychiatric nurse-practicioner to respond to students who are in extreme psychiatric or social emotional need. You know, to ensure that they stay safe and don't harm themselves. We're talking about a number of other social workers and special educators to provide services to kids who are either making much less academic progress than they should be or are in some other way having difficulty processing their emotions in a way that allows them to be a productive participant in school."
The Schenectady City School District Board of Education unanimously approved a $186 million spending plan for the 2017-2018 School Year. The district has proposed decreasing the tax levy by $1.1 million or 2.04 percent.
Jim Tedisco was an educator long before his career in public office: the Republican state Senator vows to continue to lobby for increased aid to schools. "I've been able to stand up on the floor of the New York State Assembly, and I think I've continued to do that in the Senate, and give some understanding of what it's like to be an educator or an administrator or a staff person inside a school where kids come in from diverse settings with diverse needs and illustrate to them that there's not one size that fits all."
This bit of good news in advance of Tuesday's statewide voting on individual school district 2017-18 budgets. It should be noted that voters are being asked to approve the district general fund — the total budget package is $214 million.