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Districts encouraged to speak out for equitable state aid

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Districts encouraged to speak out for equitable state aid
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It's time for school districts to raise their voices in the fight for equitable state aid distribution. That's the message from the Central New York School Boards Association. YNN's Sarah Blazonis takes us to the Issue Advocacy Conference.

LIVERPOOL, N.Y. — The Auburn City School District is used to cuts. In the past two years, it closed a school, got rid of 63 positions, and eliminated some sports and music programs.

"We had an over $5 million deficit last year. Five million dollars, in relation to a $66 million budget, is a huge amount of money," said Jason Lesch, the district school board's vice president.

Then school board members attended last year's CNYSBA Issue Advocacy Conference and Workshop, and they decided it was time to bring Auburn to Albany's attention.

"We've done letter-writing campaigns," said Lesch. "We've met with Lt. Gov. Duffy, we met with the governor's education people."

"What we're trying to do is empower them and show them methods in which they can interact with their legislators to help secure better funding," said Rick Timbs, executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium and a speaker at Saturday's conference.

Speakers said districts need to get correct budget information to as wide an audience as possible. That means getting parents involved, and students, like Malik Wynter.

"I've been fortunate enough to use sports to go to higher education, go to college. So hopefully my nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters get the same opportunity," said Wynter, a senior at Auburn High School.

Malik was part of a group that traveled to the state capital to talk to the Senate about the need for equitable aid to preserve programs like sports.

"We're starting to see a little change in their view on this. It takes time. I can definitely see a change in how they're talking about education," said Lesch.

Auburn board members say the past year has brought successes like a passed budget and increased voter turnout. But for real reform to happen, many more communities will have to speak out.

The Statewide School Finance Consortium says schools across Central New York are being asked to do more with less. Each of the districts represented by the association receives less funding now than they did four years ago.

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