Matt Smith. Press Republican. 3/31/2001.

A plan to revamp the state school-funding formula could bring districts throughout Franklin, Clinton and Essex counties a combined average-aid increase of 23 percent, a group pushing for education reform said Monday.

"Unless we act now, we’re going to lose another generation of kids," said Regina Eaton of the Alliance for Quality Education, which backs the landmark January court decision declaring New York state’s existing school-aid formula unconstitutional.

State Supreme Court Judge Leland DeGrasse ruled in January that New York City children — especially minorities — were being shortchanged, and he ordered state lawmakers to revamp by Sept. 15 the way school aid is distributed.

In an attempt Monday to show that DeGrasse’s ruling extends far beyond the Big Apple, the Alliance pointed to a plan proposed by the Midstate School Finance Consortium that would spread more than $1.6 billion in new aid to districts across upstate New York.

In northern New York, Franklin County would be the biggest winner, with schools there receiving an overall 13-percent increase. Schools in Clinton and Essex counties would see average aid hikes of 6 and 4 percent, respectively.

Not all North Country schools would prosper under the plan, though.

For instance, while AuSable Valley would receive a 5-percent hike in funding, Beekmantown would receive nothing more than it does now.

The Midstate proposal, a $3.4 billion plan that increases aid to 455 school districts across New York, is built around an assumption that state aid per-pupil totals $8,176.

It also requires each district to assess school taxes at a rate of $13 per $1,000 of property value.

Frank Mauro, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute and an advocate for education-aid reform, said the Beekmantown district wouldn’t see an increase under the Midstate plan because it may be treated more fairly under the current state-aid system.

Meanwhile, Mauro said, AuSable would receive its aid boost because that district may be asking taxpayers to carry too much of the load.

Still, Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action and a top Alliance official, said she believes the $8,176 per-pupil figure used by the Midstate Consortium is low. And, she said, if adjusted, more schools would see their funding levels rise.

The Midstate School Finance Consortium is a coalition of education administrators from 218 school districts throughout upstate New York, but not including Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties.

Since 1997, the consortium has been pushing its plan to revamp the state school-aid formula, and the group updates its projected funding levels on an annual basis.

Though its plan has repeatedly been ignored by the legislature in previous years, education-reform advocates are hoping the DeGrasse court ruling breathes new life into the Midstate proposal.

"Judge DeGrasse’s findings were identical to Midstate’s: We need a new school-aid formula that is fair and equitable to students and taxpayers and that is understandable and predictable," said Midstate Steering Committee member Ann Land.

Still, the plan has not received a formal show of support from either house of the legislature this year.

The DeGrasse decision is now being appealed by the Pataki administration, and as a result, the legislature has not taken any formal action so far to revise the school-aid formula.

The governor, meanwhile, has introduced his own plan to revamp the formula, but Democrats and Education Department Commissioner Richard Mills said the administration’s proposed education funding falls at least $1 billion short.