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Canajoharie, NY ,

Joshua Thomas
During Friday's rally, members of the Fort Plain-Canajoharie Drama Club ran through scenes from the "Wizard of Oz", playing March 28-30 at CHS. From left, Noah Warner as Tin Man, Maddi St. John as Dorothy, Jordan Hurd as Scarecrow, and AJ Sullivan as the Cowardly Lion.

Joshua Thomas
Superintendent Deborah Grimshaw, dressed in black and gold, calls for an end to Gap Elimination Adjustment during Friday's rally.

Joshua Thomas
Sydney Weingart and Carin Smida, both Canajoharie eighth graders, fight for fair funding.

Joshua Thomas
Eight grader Brian Christman reads a speech outlining the programs that the district could potentially have if GEA is eliminated.


CCS students and educators fight for fair funding

Wednesday, March 05, 2014 - Updated: 5:19 AM


C-S-E Editor

CANAJOHARIE -- On Friday evening, a large crowd of black and gold clad, enthusiastic individuals turned out for Canajoharie Central School's "Help Us Win" rally for fair funding, during which district students, educators and state officials imparted information about the opportunities being taken from students annually thanks to Gap Elimination Adjustment.

$459,000 is projected to be withheld from Canajoharie Central School in the 2014-2015 state budget, part of the $3.8 million dollars withheld from the district since 2010. 

The message was clear Friday -- the district's students feel as though opportunities are being taken from them, and they're not going to take it lying down.

Eighth grade student Brian Christman said he thinks about "all the opportunities we could have if we had the money they've been withholding from us," including the potential to add courses such as astronomy or agriculture. The school, he said, could even possibly add a shooting team, which Canajoharie previously, successfully had for decades.

While Christman said he's currently taking French, and will be taking Spanish next year, he would love additional foreign language options. Students, he said, could also begin learning foreign languages earlier with additional funding.

Third grade student Olivia Schaffer agreed, stating, "It's not fair that the state isn't giving us this money. If we had it, we could have extra classes that could help us in college." Her classmates feel the same, she explained.

Superintendent Deborah Grimshaw, at the end of a presentation of scenes from the upcoming Fort Plain-Canajoharie Drama Club production of "The Wizard of Oz" -- which, along with a performance by the Jazz Band, outlined the great things being done by CCS kids -- called out "ding dong, the GEA is dead!"

"Wouldn't that be great?" she asked, noting that students have expressed to her that they'd like to be able to do more with technology, video and audio broadcasting, and computer programming. Kids, she said, would also thrive with more extracurricular activities, which are especially important in districts such as Canajoharie, because there's not much to keep kids occupied in their free time. 

She stated, "in rural areas, as you know, schools are it."

The money withheld annually, she continued, could help the school district to open a primary health clinic, or could provide more services and support for families. With the district right in the center of developing nanotechnology and global foundry educational facilities in Albany, and the new tech campus at SUNY IT in Utica, the district could focus more on developing students' critical thinking and problem solving skills, sharpening them for potential placement in developing, competitive job markets.

If the state continues to take money from the district, "it means that we can't give our students what they need to be competitive in their global world," said Grimshaw.

Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk stated, "the governor's budget means more cuts for this school, and I'm working with them to advocate for more funding for our schools. To me, that's going to do more to lower the pressure on property taxes."

Part of advocating for an education budget "that will be sufficient to adequately fund all of our schools," means asking for an additional 1.9 billion dollars in the state education budget. The NYS Board of Regents has recommended the addition of 1.3 billion dollars, though the governor's current budget is five-hundred-million dollars less than even that recommendation.

Districts such as Canajoharie "are in a financial hole because of GEA," Tkaczyk stated, noting that only an increase in state aid will help them climb out of that hole. "The governor's budget, as it stands, will only result in more cuts in the classroom after years of cutting," Tkaczyk said.

Tkaczyk explained that with the budget finalization process looming, with the state aiming for budget approval by April 1, now is an important time for people to speak up, not only to her, and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, who also spoke during Friday's event, but in local newspapers and throughout local communities. Educating the public, said Tkaczyk, is an important step in making people aware of how much is being taken from the state's children.

"People really care about this school, and we need to make sure it gets the resources it needs to educate its kids," Tkaczyk concluded.

Joshua Thomas Canajoharie students calling for fair funding are, from left, Sebastian DeCrescenzo, Olivia Schaffer, Madeline Elliott and Brian Christman.

Joshua Thomas - From left, Middle School Principal Douglas Morrissey, Superintendent of Schools Deborah Grimshaw and High School Principal David Barnes.

Joshua Thomas - Canajoharie Central School students are shown with Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk, who is currently advocating for fair funding at the state level, calling for an additional 1.9 billion dollars to be added to the governor's proposed budget.

Joshua Thomas - Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk meets CCS eighth grader Brian Christman.

Joshua Thomas - Former CCS educator William McMillan mans a table with informational packets, ready-to-sign letters to state officials, and blank paper, for those who wished to construct their own letter. The district mailed all letters submitted Friday evening.

Joshua Thomas - Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk with Canajoharie students, from left, Sebastian DeCrescenzo, Emily Oeser, Scott Swartz, Jared Paratore, Danielle Raffa, Amy Reedy, Sophia Fischett, and Garrett Oeser.


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