Dear Remsen Community,
In 2007 I was fortunate to join with fourteen other music educators from the country to participate in the first international symposium on music in public schools at
Just a little history lesson…The New York State Regents, in 1812, established a law to partially fund common schools (there were over 10,000 common school districts in NYS by 1814!), but also imposed “rates bills” on families with children attending school to make up for the difference. By 1851 NYS statue provided a combination of state and local funding for tuition-free common schools, allowing school districts the power to levy property taxes for instructional expenses and school construction. Not until 1894, were all children in NYS “guaranteed” a free primary and secondary education – locally managed. It is interesting to note that as early as 1851 (continuing to the present) documentation exists to show that community resident tax-payers have really always resented paying taxes to fund public education! The more things change, the less they actually do.
Proud communities, much like that of the Remsen Central School District (made of seven towns) made their school a center of the community, and placed an importance on the education of children. They paid taxes like a fine (to some extent, we all may), but still held education up as the great equalizer for opportunities for all children, and they could afford to pay. NYS provided a structured to support schools through a high rate of state aid to fulfill its mission to educate all children in NYS throughout a good portion of the twentieth century…until now.
As communities continue to lose ground in terms of their own wealth and ability to pay taxes for a school system ruled by hundreds, if not thousands of mounting mandates, it is more difficult to provide the opportunities we want and feel our students need in a twenty-first century school. State aid has also experienced a sharp decline, and tax payers bear an unprecedented burden of increased costs due to underfunded mandates. Tax-payers have become exhausted, and, most recently, have won some popular relief from paying school tax with a 2% “cap”. What most people do not realize is that the tax cap of 2% is dependent upon a host of variables, such as the annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) and “exclusions” that are literally excluded from the imposed tax cap of 2%. 2% can be a very misleading number, indeed.
Ongoing work by political action committees to appeal NYS for fairer, equalized aid to schools is ongoing. Progress, if any, is slow. Communities seem to be fending for themselves, and are left by our Governor to sink or swim in terms of community tax payer support to keep our schools healthy. Communities are divided over their responsibility to help pay for education through taxes and children’s birthright to a high quality education. Not to sound dramatic - it is our chance to show that we will prioritize a quality, local education for the residents’ children in seven towns of our
Our community is strong and principled. Together, we can put our full support behind our children, and we can strengthen the legislative agenda to influence our Governor and state legislators. We can influence more equitable state aid formulas and stop division within our own communities. We need a strong school with a full compliment of programs for our students. We need to advocate for local control, by a locally elected Board of Education to ensure a high quality public education for our local children. The answer is not in combining relatively similarly suffering schools, but to build up support for opportunities for students in our local District. The time is critical – it is now – to support your community’s school district and the free and high quality education for every child who call the seven towns of
Our faculty, staff, parents and administration are working together to provide the highest quality educational opportunities for students of REMSEN. We will continue to find ways to work harder, more efficiently, and always responsibly. We require your support, and invite you to look inside our schools to see the magnificent children who attend here, and the dynamic Board of Education, community of professionals and parents at work with a common mission and vision. We will meet our challenges, we will be resourceful, but we will require the support and collaboration of everyone in this proud and beautiful community.
I encourage you to look inside this issue of the Remsen District Newsletter to find out more about your school and evidence of important work done by a staff committed to teaching and learning every day.