Thursday, March 31, 2011

Budget Notes

The NY budget has actually passed, Albany Approves Budget – On Time | FrumForum

The Assembly closed its gallery because it did not have enough people to handle crowd control. One protester was arrested for reportedly hitting a legislative staffer in the head with a cymbal....
The budget restores about $230 million of the $1.5 billion reduction in education spending that Mr. Cuomo proposed. The majority of that restoration, $134 million, will go to counties north of New York City. Another $53 million will go to New York City, and $43 million will go to Long Island.
Senator John J. Flanagan, a Long Island Republican and the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the restorations were aimed at “achieving a regional balance” in school financing. “We took a bad situation and made it better,” he said. “It’s not perfect.”
From Syracuse, we hear Budget gives Onondaga County schools $24 million less:
Because the Legislature restored some aid, the district expects to eliminate 500 positions from its payroll instead of the 584 it would have had to trim under Cuomo’s budget proposal, Lowengard said.

How much state aid will your school district get? |

Under the approved cuts, the Fayetteville-Manlius School District will sustain an 11.6 percent cut in aid, the biggest drop in Onondaga County. Under the governor's proposal, the district would have lost 20 percent of its aid compared to last year. Not counting building aid, F-M will receive $12.6 million from the state, nearly $1.7 million less than last year.
The Liverpool School District will see the smallest drop in school aid, 1.5 percent, in Onondaga County. Under Cuomo's plan, the district would have lost 14.7 percent.

And Hamilton goes down to $3,218,215 in state aid, a cut of $141,124 or 4.2%.oops, see update below.

Also from Syracuse, unions make concessions to save three percent of the jobs being cut according to North Syracuse School District unions offer concessions to help budget - NewsChannel 9 WSYR

11 unions in the North Syracuse School District agreed to several concessions in an effort to ease the tax burden on their community. The union's move will enable the district to save 15 positions.
Most of the concessions they made involved their health care plan. They say the concessions will save the school district $1.2 million.

Generic info on the budget at Governor touts “historic, transformational” budget | Politics on the Hudson

The budget realigns education financing to meet New York’s fiscal reality and provide sustainable and predictable funding while reaffirming the commitment to improve educational outcomes in the classroom. Prior to this budget, education spending was projected to grow at an unaffordable rate of 13 percent for the 2011-12 school year.

Comments on the disparate impact of budget cuts on upstate schools at Our view: Make equity in education aid a priority - Utica, NY - The Observer-Dispatch, Utica, New York

The average tax levy needed to fill the gap left in budgets in Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES schools, based on proposed reductions in aid for 2011-12, is 11.80 percent. In wealthier Rockland County, where the same aid reduction is a smaller percentage of the budget, the average tax levy needed to fill the gap is 3.03 percent.
That means local districts need to either raise taxes by an unacceptable amount or, much more likely, slice more meat out of their programs. As a result, area students get less than their counterparts in wealthier districts.
“Downstate is cutting specialized programs,” Mettelman said. “We’re cutting English teachers.”

Of course, that doesn't mean that everybody downstate is happy. State Budget Gives City 'Very Modest' Restorations, Says Bloomberg Administration - WNYC

The Bloomberg Administration is still looking at the city's share of the state budget, but officials say it appears as though the legislature restored only about 1/3 of the $600 million the mayor relied on his budget — which already included agency cuts and nearly 4,700 teacher layoffs.
Director of State Legislative Affairs for the city, Micah Lasher, said the city wasn't treated fairly by Albany lawmakers.
"When they cut revenue sharing for other localities, there was a 3 percent cut," he said. "For New York City, there was a 100 percent cut.
NY Budgeting: worse for everybody than for anybody else!

update: Apparently things aren't quite as they seem; how unusual. Our Superintendent comments/corrects the values cited above on ...What it means for HCS

In the new runs, they took the Jobs money out so it looks like districts are being cut far less that they are. The numbers are deceiving and look much more favorable. They show Hamilton losing -3.38% in aid (with building aid) instead of 11.03%.
The new run also increases projected expense driven aids....In reality, even with an increase in projected expense driven aids, we are now at -8.38% in aid loss, using the original values as they were depicted in February.
All in all, the good news is that we are $94,000 to the good in real figures.This will certainly help!

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Consolidation News

From the Finger Lakes region, Watkins Glen Looks For Input:

Phillips says two ways to close the gap are almost guaranteed. One is a consolidation of schools to one main campus. The other, laying off employees.
Phillips said, “If things do not change in spite of the governors claim that this is a game and education is simply threatening, this is not a game and this is real. Eleven people in this district, instructors, teachers, will not be employed in Watkins Glen next year.
I'm not sure I see how consolidation will avoid the layoffs, unless he means that the state incentives provide enough money to keep paying the same salaries for a while.

Near them, in Auburn, Jordan-Elbridge school district’s budget situation called ‘severe’:

The proposed budget is currently $27,596,582, a 4.7 percent increase over the current budget, he said. The current projected tax levy increase is 7.3 percent, but Zacher stressed that cuts can still be made to lessen this amount. Included in the proposal is the elimination of 29.7 staff positions. Of these, 26.7 are teaching and non-instructional support and three are administrative,...

And big districts get hit too, as in Proposed Rochester schools budget would cut 900 jobs

The city school system could lose 900 jobs — about 15 percent of its workforce — if a budget unveiled by Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard wins approval from the school board.
The job losses come as the district looks to bridge one of the largest budget shortfalls in recent memory, with administrators planning for an $80 million deficit as expenses continue to rise and funding sources dwindle. The 2011-12 proposed budget of $678 million is down from $708 million for this year.

New Jersey news includes Red Bank Board of Education OKs tentative $19.33M budget:

The district was spared the 14 personnel cuts that had to be made in the current budget, predicated by a loss of state aid. Staff cuts that were made for 2011-12 were absorbed by attrition, Morana said. The proposed budget came with other reductions, such as putting off a new roof on the primary school, repainting ...Also cut or reduced were middle school sports — which a nonprofit foundation has formed to raise funds for — computer, technology and music supplies; replacement classroom furniture; and student assemblies and field trips.
NJ also produces a pro-consolidation editorial from Asbury Park, at It shouldn't be all about the money:
It's past time to test the hypothesis that school district consolidation would save money and raise test scores of the disadvantaged. With regionalization, there would be enough money and resources to absorb students stranded in historically underachieving districts.

And there's a pro-consolidation note struck in Michigan under Opposing points of view: School district consolidation provides efficiencies to help cope with funding cuts

The economic situation in Michigan is forcing school districts to consider multiple approaches to more efficient use of their funds. The rising cost of fuel, food and health services, as well as student support services such as special education teachers, school psychologists, counselors and nurses, make it very difficult for small districts to afford.

New York also has a pro-consolidation editorial from the Gotham Gazette, at New York Needs Real Reform, Not Higher Taxes

New York's two biggest areas of spending are Medicaid and education.... New York's Medicaid program has the most generous eligibility standards in the nation and provides patients with "Cadillac" health care plans. It also ... This is why our Medicaid costs are double the national average. ...
When it comes to education, 21 percent of the $52 billion state school budget goes for non-instructional purposes. The state has far too many local school districts, each insisting on running its own transportation system and maintaining a gaggle of administrative employees, consultants and turf prerogatives. New York's education spending is 67 percent higher than the national average, without a commensurate advantage in student outcomes. Districts resist consolidation, but their parochial concerns should not trump taxpayer interests.

Meanwhile, the Governor of Maine says Post Posts: Arundel company among stops on governor’s tour

“I feel bad for teachers and state employees. You’ve been sold a bill of goods.”
LePage said teachers and state employees were “promised the Brooklyn Bridge.”
“The promises made were so rich the state could never afford it,” he said
LePage said Democrats caused the pension shortfall with support from teachers’ unions...
LePage said he supports allowing Mainers to purchase health insurance across state lines and buy insurance plans to cover specific issues.
“I could never understand why a nun in the state of Maine is required to buy maternity insurance,” he said.
When asked by Brett Davis of Hollis Center about school choice and vouchers, Commissioner of Education Bowen said both he and LePage “are moving in the direction of school choice.” He said they also want to change the school consolidation law. He said there are savings to be had by consolidating some services, but the “one-size-fits-all model” does not work for Maine.

And what can you do? Well, you can write letters, as reported from Syracuse lately in Letter-writers raise concerns about Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York state budget. Some of the letters that get out there are really, umm, interesting, e.g. Watertown Daily Times | Change procedures for voting on school budget

Grossly inflated school budgets have prevailed for decades, mostly to meet the requirements of liberal contracts negotiated between powerful and greedy public service employee unions (notice that I said unions) and state politicians. Any excuse to increase the size of local budgets routinely prevails with minimal, if any, benefit to the educational process. Unbridled power of these unions...
Well, I think a lot of people feel that way; it's not just him and the Governor of Maine. Sometimes officials write letters too, as reported in Local Democrats from across New York attack Governor Cuomo's budget cuts
ALBANY -- More than 40 elected Democrats -- all local officials -- made a rare attack on Gov. Cuomo and his proposed cuts to education and health care as the state tries to trim a $10 billion budget deficit, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

I'm not sure the letter-writing on any side does any good, but then, here I am collecting links. Does that do any good? Probably not.

Update:The budget in question has actually passed, --- and I moved this section to be its own post.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


As our schools run out of money, we look for ways to make better use of the resources we have: mainly, the teachers. Consider the Khan Academy approach, as now funded and promoted by Bill Gates, and described by Salman Khan in a TED talk video that everybody interested in education ought to watch whether they're thinking about consolidation or not. Salman Khan: Let's use video to reinvent education

Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script -- give students video lectures to watch at home, and do "homework" in the classroom with the teacher available to help.

The system he's describing is not just a big set of short video explanations with self-tests; it has software by which a teacher can see exactly what a student has mastered and when, and which questions are still not getting answered. It has been (and is being) developed with feedback from teachers in actual classrooms,

By removing the one-size-fits-all assumption .... these teachers have used technology to humanize the classroom.
Instead of the the teacher delivering a lecture to everybody including those who aren't ready for it and also those who don't need it, the teacher assigns the lecture material which students can watch as many times as necessary, and then the teacher can spend time one-on-one with students. We change what we worry about:
not student-to-teacher ratio, but student-to-valuable-human-time-with-the-teacher ratio.
And he claims that
We got a million people on the site already, so we can handle a few more...No reason why it really can't happen in every classroom in America tomorrow.

Well, I suspect quite a few classrooms could benefit greatly; others involve material not yet covered by the Khan Academy. Even those might use Khan's original formula, developed in tutoring his cousins: just break the explanations into small pieces, record, and post to YouTube; the FAQ says he uses

Camtasia Recorder ($200) + SmoothDraw3(Free) + a Wacom Bamboo Tablet ($80) on a PC. I used to use ScreenVideoRecorder($20) and Microsoft Paint (Free).
I would think it's worthwhile to have a transcript of each piece, posted with the video. And the transcript should be annotated with a list of prerequisite knowledge, I suspect. And I suspect that in the end, there should be a lot of Khan-style academies with different lecture styles for different kinds of student. I suspect that this is what Isaac Asimov would have been doing for some years past, if he were still alive. I suspect -- well, I suspect a lot of things. But everybody ought to watch that video, and think about what he's doing right, and what he's doing wrong.

Or then again, maybe not.

Update: shrank video a bit.

Labels: , , ,

Consolidation News

Recent news listed on my consolidation bookmarks on include New York's new budget: the New York Daily News says

The budget enacts initiatives Governor Cuomo proposed to make districts more efficient and improve student performance. Funds totaling $500 million will be awarded competitively to districts that demonstrate significant improvements in student performance and to districts that undertake long term structural changes to reduce costs and improve efficiency. The budget also restores $270 million in education related funding.
Hmm. Smaller budgets have to work around that one, including a neighbor: The Fayetteville-Manlius School District is proposing a budget that would cut about 14 staff positions. And as always it's not just NY; from Kansas we hear that Lawrence school board members vote to close Wakarusa Valley School /
The task force also calls for consolidating a list of six schools — Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill — down to three or four within three to five years, with construction of new or expanded schools through a bond issue.
Saving money by constructing new schools. Hmm.. From Canandaigua we get opinions like Town/village systems, not schools, are where to save:
There is no question that New York state wastes ridiculous amounts of money. There are so many areas the state can cut waste and fraud. Remember the New York Times piece about retired Long Island Railroad workers? The reporters discovered that 90 percent are on disability, including accountants, clerks and other nonphysical workers — and the state offers them free golf privileges! Let’s cut nonessential programs before we make our children go to school in dilapidated facilities.
And there are more opinions from Albany, looking for options at

Find ways to rescue N.Y. school districts

All school districts face the reality of less state aid and rising costs, along with the possibility of a property tax cap. ... consider all available options.

It seems logical that school consolidation is the answer. However, in the past 10 years, there have been only four consolidations in the state. Two districts in western New York attempted both a merger with each other and an annexation. Both efforts failed.

What other options do they have? ...

  • Is additional consolidation practical?
  • Could superintendents and other central office functions be shared among several districts?
  • Could central or regional high schools serve the needs of our rural schools?
  • Could small rural schools be served through online learning?
  • Could districts negotiate regional collective bargaining agreements and health insurance agreements?

Well, maybe. Or then again, maybe not.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Upstate NY Demographics and School Consolidation

This is a doom-and-gloom post. Well, not really. But partly. It's not obvious that school consolidation would actually contribute to the solution, but there really is a problem. Let's look at it.

The image here, which is as it says from Cornell's Program on Applied Demographics, shows the Hamilton Central School district in the recent past and probable near-term future. Fifteen years ago we had 879 students -- we're down by more than 300, i.e. if the line kept going down we'd have a negative number of students in thirty years or so. Of course we won't do that, but we may reach 400 even sooner than the 2017 suggested by the (pessimistic) blue line on the graph. School consolidation is an obvious thing to think about, wouldn't you say?

What's actually going on here? Well, of course a lot of young people move out of upstate NY looking for jobs, a lot of people move out of NY altogether looking for jobs (and lower taxes, and following businesses which are following the people and looking for lower taxes too) and in any case my generation of Baby Boomers are aging fast -- and expensively. Here are two charts on Madison County demographics from the same Cornell group, at County Projections.

Just pick Madison as the county, and then consider 1990 and 2035.

As you can see, back in 1990 we had a bulge in high school (just before leaving to go find a job or college) and in 2035 they think we still will, but it's thinning out, no longer dominating the oldsters who use up the Medicare and pensions that our juniors will be trying to pay for. As our state office of mental health puts it,

In 2011, the first of the post-war “baby boom” generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) will reach the traditionally defined “old” age of 65 years. This “elder boom” will result in a doubling of the number of older adults from 35 million in 2005 to 70 million by 2030. In New York State, the number will increase over 50% from 2.4 million to 3.7 million.

So, fewer and fewer students, and the money is needed elsewhere. We cannot afford to go on spending $20K per student per year, and as time goes on we will get less able to afford it. It's not a comfortable picture. It doesn't have to be that way, of course: there's a whole lot that the federal government does to make things worse, that doesn't have to happen. We might end up looking at American history to see what kind of population influx we have handled before, and dramatically increasing the immigration rate. That would cause problems, but they'd be different problems; the projections would change. And the "elder boom" doesn't have to be that bad, if we don't retire -- you weren't going to retire, were you? Actually, maybe we can retire. On current projections we can't afford the Medicare that we've been promising each other (well, our kids won't be able to afford it on our behalf) but if we got rid of a bunch of anti-innovation laws and regulations, I think we'd do just fine. Moore's Law is applying to robotics and 3d printing; we should be able to afford much more than we ever did before -- unless innovation is blocked, as it so often is. I'm happy to blather on about that as I have before on this blog, but I don't see much that can be done about it locally, or even at the state level.

And Cuomo may be trying hard to spin his budget cuts, but he has to make some big ones -- the state is losing the ability to pay for what it used to pay for. Sure, some of that is due to the Great Recession and still-horrendously-high unemployment which keeps government outlays high and income low, some of that will return if and as the overall economy recovers (please note Japan's Lost Decade, still going strong after 20 years, if you think it has to recover) but some of it is just the way that New York never had a plan to fulfill the promises we've made to each other.

So, think about it. What would you cut? And don't say "well, I wouldn't cut X, that's no answer" even if X=education; look at New York state and local spending 2011 and decide: what would you cut?

Update: I should have put a link to the state budget data, at least to the (PDF)Executive Budget Briefing Book saying, on page 13 of 101,

New York public schools spend more per student than any other state – fully 71 percent above the national average – yet New York ranks 40th in graduation rates and 34th in the nation in the percentage of adults who have a high school diploma or the equivalent.
So what would you cut? Would education really be altogether off your list?

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Consolidation Links; Cuomo Unfair to Upstate? --Mar 19

I've gotten behind on this, but the links (collected as always on don't link to each other so I will try to catch up; Superintendent Bowers blogged on further Albany budget cuts and Ken Bausch commented in News From Albany [comment by Ken]

While building aid and UPK are exempted,all other aids are reduced by @23% this year. Thus we are not actually receiving transportation aid at 76 cents on the dollar, rather the effective rate is only 59 cents on the dollar. Thus a dollar spent on new vehicles last year costs the district 41 cents, rather than the 24 cents we assumed during the vote on the acquisition of a new bus and fuel efficient vehicle last year.

Radio Free Hamilton reported HCS Budget Cuts Include Positions

The cuts include the equivalent of five and a half full time positions. These include:

    * 1 full time administrative position;
    * 1 full time secondary guidance counselor;
    * 1 full time occupational therapist (these services will be purchased...);
    * 1 full time elementary school teaching position;
    * 1/2 choral music teaching position;
    * 1/2 science teaching position;
    * 1/2 custodial position.

Other cuts totalling $94,000 include:...

Of course it's all over the state; earlier this month, a Rochester-area district about a dozen times our size reported Proposed Greece school budget would eliminate 89 full-time staff positions

Greece, N.Y. — At a Greece school board meeting Tuesday night, interim superintendent John O'Rourke proposed a school budget that would slash 89 full-time staff positions from the Greece school district, reduce music education, and merge sports programs....The proposed $195 million budget would increase the tax rate 1.68 percent, bringing it to $22.92 per $1,000 assessed value. The budget calls for a reduction of elementary classroom time by 30 minutes a day, an increase in class sizes, the elimination of 4th grade music, reductions of instrumental and vocal music, and cuts to elementary art and library. The plan would also consolidate sports programs

The state-wide cuts do seem to have their main impact on rural schools, simply because the aid has been disproportionately directed to them, as argued in the Rochester area Glover: Proposed state cuts would be 'catastrophic' to rural schools:

Understanding that the state is in financial crisis and that everyone must make sacrifices, the superintendent says the proposed cuts in state aid are not fair spread out among suburban and rural districts. Small rural schools stand to lose the most. “We should all share in an equitable way,” Glover said. “Everybody has to tighten their belts, but this takes opportunities away from kids in rural schools.” Data taken from the Statewide School Finance Consortium website shows... Comparatively by county... “The poor schools are getting poorer,” as a result of the governor’s proposed budget cuts.

And smaller districts are being pushed towards consolidation, as in the Ithaca-area Trumansburg, South Seneca schools explore sharing resources:

Trumansburg Central School District officials are considering merger and resource sharing with the neighboring South Seneca Central School District. Spurred by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's public push for consolidation of smaller school districts in New York...

It's really quite a push, with some rather strong statements in which the New York governor hits school districts, defends education cut | Reuters

Claiming local school districts are playing "political games," New York's governor on Thursday defended his $1.5 billion cut to education spending. Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed cut in state aid to schools -- the largest in history -- is aimed at closing a $10 billion budget gap for the next fiscal year. Cuomo told reporters on Thursday that his cuts average 2.7 percent per school district, and could be offset by rooting out inefficiencies, using reserve funds and lowering the salaries of superintendents.

It does seem that the governor is trying to understate the pain:Most school districts don't have deep pockets:

Andrew Cuomo continues his fiery rhetoric about school districts, claiming they have enough reserves and federal money in their coffers to weather state education cuts. Just Thursday he said districts shouldn't have to lay off teachers because of the aid cuts. But a report by the state Comptroller's Office this week shows that 100 of the state's 700 districts don't have the reserves and one-time federal "Education Jobs Fund" aid to offset the state reductions. Batavia is one of those districts.

The governor's not just making speeches. Capitol Confidential » Save NY now airs on school money

The pro-Cuomo Committee to Save New York is airing its third advertisement, targeting education waste. It quote a statistic that has made school officials bristle: New York is first in education spending but 34th in performance. That 34th ranking refers to the percentage of adults over 25 who have a high school diploma, and educators say it’s not a good measure given New York’s status as a magnet for immigrants. They point to other indicators, like the number of kids taking Advance Placement exams, which show New York doing better. It’s a clever ad. Someone is cutting up an education dollar while ticking off the stats, before Gov. Andrew Cuomo appears as the announcer says, “The governor’s plan target’s bureaucratic waste, and protects our students and teachers. Tell your lawmaker to support the governor’s plan.”

Upstate N.Y. schools anguish over aid cuts | The Ithaca Journal |

Among school districts facing the largest cuts per pupil, 97 percent are in upstate communities while 75 percent of those facing the smallest cuts are in downstate suburban communities, according to the Alliance for a Quality Education, an Albany-based union-backed advocacy group.
The cuts are necessary, because the state has run out of money. Why has the state run out of money? Well, quite a few's one, as reported in the NYT two weeks back: State Workers and N.Y.’s Fiscal Crisis -
At a time when public school students are being forced into ever more crowded classrooms, and poor families will lose state medical benefits, New York State is paying 10 times more for state employees’ pensions than it did just a decade ago. That huge increase is largely because of Albany’s outsized generosity to the state’s powerful employees’ unions in the early years of the last decade, made worse when the recession pushed down pension fund earnings, forcing the state to make up the difference. Although taxpayers are on the hook for the recession’s costs, most state employees pay only 3 percent of their salaries to their pensions, half the level of most state employees elsewhere. Their health insurance payments are about half those in the private sector...
So that's part of it. And what to do about it? I have no idea. Or rather, I have lots of ideas but of two kinds: trivial on the one hand, and politically impossible on the other. I dunno.

Mostly-Irrelevant Update: the NYT has an interesting proposal for partially fixing the long-term pension/budget problem which would have made the last couple of years more equitably disastrous, and would make the future better able to fund education: share the pain.

It is that simple: Just scrap the current indexing of pensions to the Consumer Price Index and replace it with a link to the state’s gross domestic product. We can’t accurately fund traditional pension plans until we have G.D.P.-linked bonds, or “trills,” which I described in a recent column. But it is time to start the transition, so that pensions share risks across generations.
That would be a good thing. It wouldn't fix our impending mainly-health-care financial disaster, but it would be a good thing.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Consolidation links

This is intended as a slightly-organized collection of links about the possibility of Hamilton Central School consolidation (merger with another district, most likely Morrisville-Eaton.) The central link at the moment, for community discussion and comment, is, kicked off as reported by Radio Free Hamilton on March 1 in Community Forum Focuses on HCS' Future, Merger

About 60 people attended a meeting at the Hamilton Public Library Monday night to discuss the future of HCS, and to learn more about and consider alternatives to a possible merger with Morrisville-Eaton Central Schools (MECS).
The powerpoint presentation at can be viewed in your browser as a Google presentation here unless somebody minds my having put it on Google docs, in which case I'll remove it.

My own links would be on Delicious at (consolidation links) and on this blog at (consolidation posts), including this post.

In addition to the meeting-report above, Radio Free Hamilton said on Jan 20 that Board Gets Dire Budget Outlook; Approves Seeking Grant for Merger Study

The details presented by Superintendent Dr. Diana Bowers portrayed not so much a forecast of stormy weather but a financial natural disaster that could strike HCS programs as early as the 2011-2012 budget and devastate it as the Class of 2013 begins its senior yearyear.
on Feb 6 that 1 + 1 = 1: HCS, MECS Merger
The Morrisville-Eaton school board Friday voted to join Hamilton in a study of a possible merger of the two districts. HCS voted in favor or a merger study last week.
And on March 9, Updated: Insult to Injury: HCS Faces Another State Aid Cut

First, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was going to cut the state's $10 billion deficit byt cutting state aid to schools. Hamilton's hit: $485,000.

Then, the governor said he wants to take the pool of state education aid and divide it differently, taking from wealthier districts and redistributing funds to poorer districts. Hamilton's hit: $103,000.

... Add to that cuts from the federal government and HCS starts its 2011-2012 budget process about $1 million in the hole.

And Superintendent Diana Bowers has a Is It True That...? Blog, which lately is mostly about consolidation. Just Keep Scrolling.

The Post-Standard editorialized that Merger talks: Exploring school district consolidation will be a learning experience |

Facing the one-two punch of rising costs and declining state aid, superintendents in Morrisville-Eaton, Hamilton, Madison and Stockbridge Valley have initiated talks on merging the four districts into two.
(Note comment by Ken Bausch of below.)

The Oneida Dispatch reported on the proposed study as Morrisville-Eaton and Hamilton Central school districts seek funding for merger study (updated) -

If selected, the grant would be awarded by June 1 and a community group would be formed. The group would begin the study in July and finish in January 2012. The completed study would then be submitted to the New York State Education Department. It would be sent back to the districts for more public hearings.

The boards of education may then decide to put the merger up for a vote around September 2012. Voters for both districts would have to approve the merger in two rounds of voting in fall 2012.

Hamilton Superintendent Diana Bowers said the study is a “fact finding” mission.

Personally, I was quite depressed as I went to the meeting; the meeting left me with a sense that maybe we might possibly perhaps muddle through; lately I'm feeling more depressed again. But we might muddle through.

Or then again, maybe not.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Exercise and Education

This morning I spent 45 minutes trying to pound a few modern Greek words and phrases into an aging memory; until a month ago, this would have required a major effort of willpower, but lately I've been doing it every day with no problem. Also this morning, I did almost 5 miles of gently uphill jogging against random resistance on an elliptical machine, a Life Fitness X5i; up until a month ago, this would have required a completely impractical effort of will. No problem, because I now do them together. As Seth Roberts put it a year ago, Boring + Boring = Pleasant!?:

Two boring activities, done together, became pleasant. Anki [flashcards] alone I can do maybe ten minutes. Treadmill alone I can do only a few minutes before I want to stop. In both cases I’d have to be pushed to do it at all. Yet the combination I want to do; 60 minutes feels like a good length of time.

I'm a lot slower at memorizing than I was forty years ago, but this is good. It's funny to think how close I was to finding this for myself; I have tried music while exercising, watching TED talks while exercising, even memorizing verse while exercising. I think the crucial missing factor was total focus-in-the-moment, as required by flashcards or the Dover Books Listen & Learn Modern Greek (CD Edition) which is basically a booklet of flashcard-style utterances, English+Greek+phonetic, to be read along with the audio. (I photocopied the booklet with 41% enlargement.)

I do wonder how many people this would help. I look at related discussions like What is the best and fastest way to memorize a lot of material for a test? and of course Seth Roberts' later posts at Walking and Learning Update and at Walking Creates A Thirst For Dry Knowledge and gee, I dunno. Learning is good; exercise is good; making both easier is a very good thing.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Snow and WD-40

A neighbor commented that the storm that ended yesterday totaled 26 inches in our area; there was enough wind that I had some bare patches and some drifts, including door-blocking drifts, but the driveway was mostly 18 inches after things settled down (I had removed a couple of inches, twice, early on). There was no Monday paper, or Monday school -- Colgate shut down too, which is unusual. [Update: I see I was wrong, Colgate was delayed not closed, according to Radio Free Hamilton at Hamilton Buried; Colgate Opens Late

Because of the heavy snowfall and winds, HCS is closed today and Colgate has a late start.
Well, whatever.]

And it was wet, sticky snow. Heavy snow. Not fun to shovel, especially because I had to hit the snow shovel against something hard after carrying each load to the edge and tossing it. But another neighbor (Thanks, Ray) suggested cooking oil on the shovel, and I modified that: I dried it off and then sprayed WD-40. It worked beautifully. Everybody should know about the magical powers of WD-40.

Well, it worked as I went down from garage toward the street, until I got to the ultra-compact hard stuff left by the sidewalk plow and sidewalk snow-blower, each of which had been by several time. I couldn't make any impression on it with a snow shovel, and the regular dirt shovel was going very slowly. And Stub Baker, who put that driveway there (as well as digging various things for me over the years including the basement under me right now), was driving down the street in a John Deere 410G backhoe loader, which for him is a small machine, and my exercise was cut short. Aww, gee. I have a suspicion that Stub knows more about WD-40 than I ever will, too.

Labels: ,