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Russell holding school funding reform rally Thursday in Massena

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MASSENA — Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell hopes to use an education reform rally this week as a springboard for discussions in Albany about equitable school funding.

Mrs. Russell, D-Theresa, is sponsoring the rally in conjunction with the Alliance for Quality Education. It will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Massena High School auditorium.

The Alliance for Quality Education is “a statewide advocacy group that has been fighting many years for funding equity,” she said. “They were the group that spearheaded the lawsuit that created the most recent funding formula and continue to fight to make that formula equitable.”

Mrs. Russell said that during Thursday’s rally she plans to address issues such as the Common Core standards and the School Funding Equity Act, a bill she sponsored, which is designed to bring more school aid to rural districts.

“It’s going to be an opportunity to start advocacy on education issues as we begin a new legislative year,” Mrs. Russell said. “It’s going to be focused on funding our schools, but I expect concerns about Common Core.”

As lawmakers begin their budget work in Albany, she said it is important for north country voices to be heard “because we have the most to gain and the most to lose.”

Mrs. Russell said she expects education funding will be one of the hot topics during the legislative sessions, and it’s important to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.

“It’s important for us to start our advocacy early. Education is going to be one of the most hotly negotiated issues in this year’s budget,” she said.

The assemblywoman said, if people pull together, there can be some sway in Albany to provide equitable funding to north country schools. She pointed out the recent success groups had in keeping the local psychiatric center and prisons open.

“We have a very strong track record. If we pull together and we speak with a loud, focused voice, we’ve been able to get results,” Mrs. Russell said.

Obtaining adequate funding is important for local schools to maintain programming, she said.

“This is the year it’s make or break for many of our school districts. I meet with school districts in the River District on a very regular basis. I’ve been having meetings all fall and had one last week. They are hurting,” she said.

Without adequate funding, schools have been forced to cut back in programs, something she said is unacceptable.

“The only reason schools are able to stay solvent is they are making cuts that are unacceptable,” she said.

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