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LEA In this issue

Spring planting? You might not want these carnivorous plants in YOUR garden, but Freeport High School scientists Aashmeeta Yogiraf and James Abbate became very friendly with Venus fly traps and pitcher plants as they

by Linda Delmonico Prussen

Parti of 2 It's almost that time again, the time when the PTA and concerned parents rally together to try and get as large a turnout as possible to pass the school budgets. Last year voter turnout was high, but unfortunately for 45 of the 125 Long Island school districts, many of the votes were no. Budget committees have been formed, but the districts are still worried that taxpayers will balk regardless how low they try to keep increases. The battle wages on at the ballot box between those who claim they want

researched protein systems for last week's FHS Science and Engineering Fair. Watch next week's Leader for more about cutting-edge research being done by local students.

only the best for their children versus those who say another tax increase may force them off Long Island. But should the battle be fought among community members, or is there a way to take this battle to the state level and tackle the issue the districts claim are driving up the tax rates, the inequitable distribution of state aid? Freeport's Deputy Superintendent Kishore Kuncham: "In order to maintain our existing programs, the Freeport School District has to increase our budget by at least 6%. At the same time, we're not seeing that increase in'state aid; the 2006-07 aid increase for Freeport now stands at less than 2%.

"Freeport continues to be one of the lowest spending districts in Nassau County; it is the 38th lowest of 41 K-12 districts. "Freeport continues to join with other Long Island districts to lobby for more equitable state aid for our region. One of our own board members, Ron Ellerbe, is president of REFIT, a consortium of Long Island districts which works to secure additional state aid for its members." Working the numbers Sheldon Dumain, superintendent of the Bellmore School District, questions why upstate school districts receive

$5,570 per pupil in state aid, New York City Schools receive $5',850 and Nassau County gets on average only $2,934 per pupil. Dr. Ranier Melucci of the Merrick School District said, "On Long Island we educate about 26% of all the students in New York State." He said Long Island only gets back about 20% in state aid. Dr. Melucci said, "State aid should be proportionate to the students we serve." Dr. Melucci made it clear this is not the only way aid should be determined, but it is an aspect that must be looked at. He said transportation aid to the Merrick School District from the state was reduced by 60%. (continued on page 16)