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N-N officials tell district residents: Lobby state officials for more aid

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NORFOLK - After hearing pleas from several people this week about saving a position that’s on the chopping block in the 2014-15 school year, Norwood-Norfolk Central School officials asked the audience to help them by contacting their legislators and demanding the elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment.

The district’s website - www.nncsk12.org - contains an “Advocacy Toolkit” with pre-written letters addressed to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, state senators and assembly representatives. The letters simply need to be printed out, signed and mailed to the elected officials.

Board President Jon Hazen suggested during this week’s board of education budget workshop that those in the audience make their voices heard by sending the letters to their elected officials.

“Politicians do notice the letters We need your help,” he said.

The letters share concerns about adequate funding for school districts. In Norwood-Norfolk’s case, they’re currently looking at an $888,000 gap in their 2014-15 budget proposal.

“Our district has lost approximately $4 million in aid over the last four years. Almost all of this lost school aid is due to the institution of the “Gap Elimination Adjustment,” one of the letters notes.

“The governor has told school districts to reduce expenses and use reserves. The Norwood-Norfolk School District has done just as he’s instructed. We have used our reserve to offset the negative impact of the GEA on our district and have lost 23 FTE (full-time equivalent) positions. We have arrived at a place where ‘doing more with less’ is no longer an acceptable option. There is simply no further room to cut our school district’s budget and still be able to meet the common core learning standards and maintain high education standards,” it reads.

The letter notes that sufficient state financial support is necessary to meet a common goal between the state and district - to graduate students who are college- and career-ready.

“Unfortunately, the current school aid formula does not provide that support to Norwood-Norfolk and other similar school districts. Please help us by removing the Gap Elimination Adjustment once and for all,” it reads.

The Gap Elimination Adjustment was introduced in the 2009-10 school year and began to cut into school’s state aid allocations. The GEA helped reduce the state’s deficit at the expense of school districts, according to the New York State School Boards Association.

As a result, Superintendent James M. Cruikshank said the district is projected to receive less state aid in 2014-15 than they did in the 2008-09 school year. He said they’ve received just under $4,000 per student less in state aid over the last four years.

Teacher Martha Greene, like Mr. Hazen, urged those in the audience to take part in the letter-writing campaign.

“There is an agenda out there to undermine public schools,” she said. “I’m very disillusioned with the politics, but I think we still have to try. There’s no excuse not to get the message down there. We at least have to try. We don’t have the money up here to support what we need to do.”

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