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Potsdam superintendent says Cuomo’s prison education plan comes at wrong time

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POTSDAM — As school districts all over the state struggle to put together their 2014-15 budgets, Potsdam Central School Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said word of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s plan to fund college education for prison inmates is not being well received in the education community.

“When schools are struggling and they want to defer money to inmates, that doesn’t sit well with most of the public school community,” Mr. Brady said.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, and state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, have spoken out against the governor’s inmate education plan.

“It’s a slap in the face to the law-abiding, hardworking parents and students who are working to pay off college debt,” Mrs. Russell said at a meeting last week in Massena.

Sen. Griffo released a statement opposing the plan earlier this week.

“Prison is supposed to be a punishment for wrongdoing, not a Club Med where your family can come visit any time and your health issues and education are taken care of at zero cost,” he said. “Parents ask me all the time how the state can make college more affordable. They believe in the power of an education, but are clearly struggling to find the money to send their children to school. It’s an affront to those people, who have not run afoul of the law, to ask them to continue struggling while we give a college education away for free to prisoners.”

Mr. Brady said he has already met with Ms. Russell to discuss allocating more aid to school districts. A meeting of area school superintendents with Mr. Griffo and Mrs. Ritchie also is planned, he said.

In a statement released Friday, Mrs. Russell said she is working hard to bring increased aid to north country schools.

“It is clear that our schools cannot afford another year of cuts. If we are serious about preparing our students to compete and be successful in the world economy, we have to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment and begin to reverse its harmful cuts,” she said. “These cuts have gone on for far too long, and our schools are hurting. It’s time to end this tax on our schools so they can provide the programs that keep our students engaged and have the opportunities necessary to enable our students to be successful.”

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