Viewpoint: Eliminate GEA

To the Valley News:

Dear Elizabethtown-Lewis Central Parents:

I write to you as our School Board is in the early stages of constructing the 2014-2015 school budget – the budget you’ll vote on this coming May 20. Our school community has a history of solid support for the school budget. In recent years since at least 2008, you have overwhelmingly approved our school’s budget by 75 percent on the average. I thank you for that continued trust and support with our community’s resources in supporting teaching and learning.

My purpose in writing is to inform you of a particular challenge facing Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School this year, and for the past few years – New York’s Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) that is imposed upon public schools.

In order to balance the state budget, much needed financial aid was taken away from school districts, beginning in 2009 under Governor Paterson. Under that governor, a public school’s state aid was “adjusted” to help “eliminate the gap” in our state’s finances – hence the name Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). Since the GEA’s inception, school districts have lost more than $8 billion in GEA state aid cuts. Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School alone has lost close to $2.4 million in GEA to help the state fill its budget deficit.

In short, much needed financial aid has been taken away from our community’s students, and reallocated to other parts of New York State.

The cumulative impact of four consecutive years of state aid losses has resulted in cuts in personnel, programs and services. Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School has eliminated elementary teachers, high school teachers, teaching assistants, administrators, custodians, bus drivers, and administrative assistants. We have eliminated a foreign language, some art courses, some music courses, and certain high school elective courses. We have streamlined, attempted to make our operations more efficient, and we continue to share services with other districts and municipalities to cut costs as well.

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