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In Eastchester,
Foundation Aid cuts don’t add up


As NYSUT President Melinda Person travels across the state visiting schools facing Foundation Aid cuts due to the governor’s executive budget proposal, one fact is clear: The math just doesn’t add up.

“It’s a very simplistic argument,” said Person of Gov. Hochul’s rationale for ending “Save Harmless” Foundation Aid cuts, which shield districts from funding reductions due to enrollment drops. “If you have 10 percent fewer students you receive 10 percent less in funding. But people who actually work in and run schools understand that simply having 22 rather than 25 kids in a class doesn’t save 10 percent of your budget — you still have to run a class, and you still have to provide heat and other services.”

Person made the observation while meeting with Tom Puccini, Eastchester Teachers Association interim president, and Eastchester Union Free School District Superintendent Ronald Valenti. Valenti agreed, quipping that turning off 10 percent of the classroom lights to save money simply isn’t an option. The state’s rationale that it’s facing a deficit also falls flat. “When hasn’t New York faced a deficit — and why are we placing that on the backs of kids?” said Valenti.

“We want a vigorous language program for elementary students, but due to these cuts we’d have to maybe only hire one teacher to share between the two buildings.”

~ Ronald Valenti, Eastchester Union Free School District Superintendent

In an afternoon visit at the southern Westchester County district, Puccini, ETA negotiator Adam Chertok, ETA Secretary Bryan Johnson and Eastchester Monitors Association President Susan Frascone, led Person on a tour of several classes at the high school. Eastchester stands to lose $429,000 in Foundation Aid under the governor’s proposal. And while the district anticipates a slight reduction in enrollment, as Valenti explained, the fall in student numbers won’t do much to reduce costs.

Foundation Aid cuts, however, would directly impact a popular and successful Spanish language instruction program instituted last year for kindergarten and first graders. The district had hoped to hire two new teachers and expand the program to second and fifth grades. “We want a vigorous language program for elementary students, but due to these cuts we’d have to maybe only hire one teacher to share between the two buildings,” said Valenti.

Hiring additional guidance counselors at the high school to improve the student-to- counselor ratio is also in question if the cuts stand. Person pledged to keep fighting on behalf of educators statewide to restore Foundation Aid cuts. “We brought 700 folks to the Capitol yesterday to lobby and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said they wouldn’t stand for these cuts,” she said. “We’re happy to work with superintendents on this — we’re all fighting for the same issues in Albany.”

Words | Kara Smith
Images | El-Wise Noisette