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Friday, July 25, 2014
L.I. superintendents push to eliminate GEA
(Page 2 of 2)
Peter Frutkoff/Herald
Gary Bixhorn, chief operating officer of Eastern Suffolk BOCES and chairman of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, said that Long Island schools would receive a 9 percent increase in state aid if the state legislature were to eliminate the GEA in the 2014-2015 academic year.

Instated before the 2009-10 academic year, the GEA — initially known as the Deficit Reduction Assessment — reduced school aid by $1.5 billion as a way to ease the state’s fiscal shortfall, progressively decreasing its allocation in the next four years. Statewide districts later struggled to raise local revenue with the property tax cap in 2011, which resulted in increasing class sizes, cutting art and music programs along with other academic courses such as AP classes, and releasing teachers, administrators and other staff.

According to a property tax report from the current academic year, Nassau County schools have faced a budget deficit amounting to more than $105 million, losing around $520 per student.

David Feller, president of the Nassau County School Superintendents Association and superintendent of the North Merrick school district, which gleans 30% of its yearly budget from state aid, added that the implementation of Common Core standards has caused a “bad convergence of two forces at one time” as schools face these fiscal pressures.

“We’d like to make sure we have one voice in terms of restoring the GEA,” Feller said. “We know that these are still tough times, but we also know that Long Island has to be treated fairly.”

If the state legislature were to eliminate the GEA in one year, Bixhorn said, districts statewide would receive about a 9 percent increase in school aid.

“We must make sure that our districts are fully funded and that we get the message across to Albany that we deserve our fair share,” Assemblyman Joseph Saladino said. “We will continue to push for financial fairness, because it’s the right thing to do and, more than anything else, it’s the right thing we can do for our kids.”

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