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Rural New York Districts Look to Innovate to Overcome Funding Challenges

Small, rural school districts in New York State are continuing to explore ideas for combating declining enrollments and funds.

Rural school leaders have lobbied unsuccessfully to change the state's funding formula, which they say hurts small schools in less-wealthy areas. Enrollment statewide also has been declining.

A recent story in the Daily Messenger in Canandaigua, N.Y., describes how some schools have dealt with the cuts—think vice principals sweeping classrooms to save money on cleaning staff—and how others have considered more drastic changes, such as regional high schools.

They consider "regional" to mean county- or districtwide high schools, which are common in other states (nearly 30 percent of counties nationally have county-based education systems). New York would need legislation to create regional high schools, and bills to do so have been proposed.

One study showed the biggest savings for a regional high school model would come from staffing. Nine New York high schools that have 460 teachers spend $32.3 million annually on salaries and benefits; a regional high school model would save $4.2 million.

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