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Board Members: Governor’s Budget Will Lead to Teacher Layoffs

More than half of school board members say their district would need to lay off teachers based on Gov. David Paterson’s proposed state budget, according to the most recent New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) “Pulse Poll.”

Asked specifically if the governor’s proposal would lead to teacher layoffs in their district, 60 percent of the 407 members who responded said yes, while another 24 percent said they didn’t know yet.

With school districts facing a potential $1.1 billion loss in state school aid as they begin their budget process, NYSSBA asked board members what measures would be necessary to close the gap in funding. The poll results suggest school boards will use a combination of strategies to deal with any shortfall in expected state aid in the coming school year.

For example, in addition to teacher layoffs, two-thirds of respondents said they would dip into reserve funds. Half said their districts would need to cut programs, and 40 percent said they would have to raise property taxes.

“School board members are wary of the governor’s suggestion that they use their undesignated reserve balance to fully cover this proposed reduction in education aid,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. “They understand that depleting these funds in the first year of what the governor now calls a three-year problem is not a sound financial decision and would leave districts with only the ability to cut programs and staff even more dramatically in the future.”

The poll also asked board members if they would support some reduction in state aid if the Legislature adopted mandate relief proposals, such as eliminating the Wicks Law, ending unfunded mandates, cutting back on reporting requirements, and implementing a state regulatory review process for state regulations affecting schools.

More than half of respondents – 54 percent – said they would support reduced state aid in exchange for mandate relief. Twenty-four percent said they didn’t know if they would and 22 percent said they would not accept reduced state aid.

“Clearly, school district budget planning will be enormously complicated this year,” said Kremer. “School boards are still making sense of the governor’s painful state aid cuts and welcome mandate relief proposals.”

The New York State School Boards Association represents nearly 680 school boards and more than 5,000 school board members in New York