AUBURN, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– The Auburn City School District is in dire need of more funding again this year, with the pandemic only exacerbating inequalities.
With budget cuts year after year for the past decade, Board of Education member Danielle Wood says the district is at its wit’s end.
“When they get to a point where a building is closed, our arts and music programs were slashed, our staff was cut significantly because every year, there’s cuts and you’re not seeing any hiring. Once that accumulates, we are pretty bare boned,” she said.
Over the last decade, the school has cut 20% of its staff and the district has some of the lowest spending per student in the state, making them part of the bottom 1%.
When that is compared to neighboring district, Jordan-Elbridge Central, Auburn is spending almost $10,000 less per student a year.
The inequalities have only become worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic, says Superintendent Jeffrey Pirozzolo.
“We have large class sizes here, which really isn’t conducive to COVID, thus the reason why we have a hybrid model because we can’t fit all of our children into the same classroom,” he said.
Students and staff at Auburn have been advocating to their elected officials for years, but their cries have gone largely unanswered, says Board of Education member Ian Phillips.
“In every meeting, our students and we are told you’re absolutely right, there’s no rhyme or reason for this. We will see what we can do and it just never gets fixed every year,” he said.
One of those students advocating for change is freshman class president Emerson Brown.
“I’m hoping that we get the same opportunities as other schools because with more funding, it comes a lot of new things that we haven’t had access to. That is an unfair disadvantage to people and kids in Aubrun,” she said.
Wood says they aren’t asking for any more extra funding than other schools, just a fair amount across the board so students can have similar opportunities.
The students and staff continue to advocate for this change chanting, “Fix it, fund it, it’s not fair. Let’s make everyone aware!”
And they are hopeful change will be made before the final budget is passed this Spring.