Anticipating Cuts, Rural Schools Look to Upcoming N.Y. Budget With Dread

Though it has just 215 students, in kindergarten through 12th grade, Franklin Central School is the heart of its northern Catskills community.

The three Main Street restaurants in the village of Franklin, N.Y., rely on the business of students, staff and their families to stay afloat, and nearly every community event — from the annual senior luncheon to the farmers’ market — is run with the help of student volunteers.

“The village and school just kind of mesh together,” said Amanda Groff, 44, who has three children enrolled in the district. “I can’t imagine one without the other.”

But the future of the school is uncertain, its superintendent, Bryan Ayres, said in an interview. A new budget plan announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this year could slash Franklin’s state aid by nearly $1.3 million — more than 12 percent of its entire budget. Mr. Ayres worries he would have to lay off high school teaching staff and send older students to schools in neighboring districts if the cuts are approved.

About half of New York’s school districts would see reductions in funding under the plan, according to the state’s projections. Some are wealthy, suburban districts in places like Westchester County and Long Island, but many are low-income, rural districts that are less able to fill budget gaps with property taxes.

Rural district leaders from across the state said the new plan would mean that many rural students would end up with fewer opportunities than their suburban or urban counterparts, as schools are forced to cut staff members, after-school programming, course offerings and fine arts programs.

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