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Southern Tier public schools looking to spread 3% increase in state aid

Sen. Catherine Young

The state budget process can be very complicated and the higher ranked a legislator is, the better that legislator's district can wind up when the final budget is adopted.

Only a few key leaders actually take part in the budget process. Lower-seniority members get to go to conferences to be briefed on what their leaders are doing and decide if they want to go along.

It is not just the legendary "three men in a room," it is also the leaders of what are called the fiscal committees, the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means Committees.

Olean Republican Sen. Catharine Young, chair of the Finance Committee, said that is beneficial to her 46 school districts.

"We fought very hard at the negotiating table with the governor and the New York State Assembly this year to increase aid to education and especially a component called foundation aid, which is aid that goes to school that is not restricted. So, basically, the schools can use it how they see it best meets the needs of the students."

Total school aid was up $1 billion this year, to $26 billion total. All of her districts received more money - a 3 percent increase - for a total of $660 million.

Young said state aid is especially important in her district because schools are predominantly rural and poor, and her districts have very weak tax bases, so tax hikes do not produce much additional revenue. She said the state aid allows some of the additional educational services students need to be able to compete in college or in the world of work after graduation.

"Some of these schools are smaller and they don't have enough critical mass to be able to afford to provide electives -- advanced placement, AP courses -- that put children on a college-bound path," Young said. "Those are difficult for rural schools. It's difficult even for rural schools to offer foreign languages."

Young said that is also true of programs like music and art.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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