AMOUNTS OWED IN FOUNDATION AID
Ellenville: $4.3 million
Kingston: $14.7 million
Set in the rolling hills of the Hudson Valley, Ellenville is a small town whose picturesque views belie its 71-percent district poverty rate.
The Ellenville community faces widespread problems like homelessness, hunger and drug abuse. Students and their families frequently turn to the school district for much-needed support. Unfortunately, community need is outpacing the district’s ability to cope, and there is a massive resource gap: Ellenville is owed $4.3 million in state aid.
Ask Lisa Wiles what her district’s biggest need is and her answer is swift. “We need more counselors, maybe a school mental health clinic, definitely a social worker — we really need a social worker,” said Wiles, superintendent for the Ellenville Central School District.
Alison Chapin, the sole school counselor for her building, has seen a dramatic increase in instances of student self-harm and suicide since she joined the district 16 years ago.
Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary-treasurer and Paul Pecorale, NYSUT second vice president, listen to educators and elected officials discuss school funding issues.
Paul Pecorale, NYSUT second vice president, tours an art classroom in Ellenville.
“When I was first hired, there was an emergency a week,” she said, noting that this year, “we had 15 students our first week who had those thoughts and sought treatment.”
Budget shortfalls have also led to cuts in music and arts. Ellenville is one of a handful of districts without a fourth-grade band. A $2.5 million funding cut a few years back meant a switch from nine class periods to eight, educator layoffs and subsequent reductions in the number of arts and music classes.
The cuts put students interested in pursuing college-level study in art and music at a severe disadvantage, shrinking their opportunities to develop artistic portfolios or take advanced musical coursework.
“One of our former students went to college for music and had to drop out of the program because he just didn’t have the high-school preparation he needed,” said Lauri Worden, a music teacher at the high school.
NYSUT Second Vice President, Paul Pecorale, thanked participants for their testimony and pledged the union’s continued support for increased state funding for public education. “We’re grateful to all of you for the hard work you do every day. I know we can count on your support as we work to get this issue addressed.”
Words | Kara Smith
Images | Andrew Watson
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