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      With budget votes coming up, fighting for money for schools

      State money is the immediate issue, but school administrators and board members were talking today about funding AND improving the quality of what's offered to students

      For school districts, it is crunch time in getting budgets for next year passed.

      But this Saturday morning, administrators and school board members met with area legislators to talk about what we're getting for education dollars, as well as finding more state money.

      As State Senator John DeFrancisco (R-50th District/Syracuse-Auburn areas) told educators, education and medicaid are the only two big areas in the budget getting more money. But he, and other elected officials also pointed out that getting more, especially this year, will be tough.(The panel with DeFrancisco and State Senator Dave Valesky (D-53rd District/Oneida area) included a lively debate on possibilities for future potential revenues from state-run casinos)

      School Superintendents in several districts are looking at budget gaps, and reduced state aid, with expected cutbacks and layoffs. And while all were in agreement this morning that the system needs fixing, there were several ideas on how.

      Among those speaking, Zoe Hill, a senior at Cicero-North Syracuse who's been sitting in on North Syracuse budget and legislative meetings all year. Her concern: class sizes going up and fewer choices for classes, with many students getting shut out of electives that would tie into major and career interests.

      Assemblyman Al Stirpe (D-121st/North East and South of Syracuse) says the concern is not offering classes of interest, and then seeing student interest and performance drop.

      East Syracuse Superintendent Donna DeSiato suggests looking at a better, updated model which would put what schools teach more in line with the demands of the job world, both here and around the globe. She says focused academics in areas like engineering and medical technology are coming.

      But the bottom line is money. Legislators say the picture will be clearer once the state budget is passed. But, with not enough to go around, there will still be belt tightening.

      The school budget debates are ongoing in districts, with lots of public forums and web stories posted by the schools. District resident input is welcome