EDUCATION Failing system affecting students

An education rally this month in Ellicottville put the spotlight on why the landscape of our current area system has been failing.

Dr. Richard G. Timbs, executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium, led the event to seek increased funding for schools. Unsurprisingly, the former superintendent of the Erie-2 Chautauqua Cattaraugus Board of Cooperative Educational Services, spoke of all the wrongs facing the small school districts.

By the way, in more than half of the 27 area BOCES districts, student enrollment has fallen below 600 students.

Guess what? Fewer students means less state aid – no matter what magical formula you are considering.

So when other districts, especially those downstate where a fluid economy always exists, add to their already more than 3,000-student numbers, aid grows. Timbs finds that unfair – and notes areas with dwindling student enrollment should be getting a larger piece of their pie that really is not theirs.

But the bigger issue is coming down to what is being offered locally. One regional salutatorian has been shut out of State University of New York options due to the bare-bones curriculum offered at her district.

“She was not accepted to (a SUNY school) because her application was thin,” Timbs said. “We contacted the admissions office at the school and asked why she was denied. After all, she was the salutatorian. We were told that the kids from the wealthier districts had a better ability and offering. Their transcripts were thicker. ZIP code does matter, apparently.”

Regrettably, those higher institutions of learning are correct. Programming and academics matter when furthering an education.

But as long as our communities continue to support districts with enrollments of fewer than 600, you can be sure that academic programming will not improve.

That’s incredibly harsh on our current student population – and it is already having a demoralizing effect on some graduates.