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Lawmakers urge Hochul to sign bill that could save Binghamton elementary school

Parents, advocates and lawmakers gathered at Roosevelt Elementary to call on Governor Hochul to sign the legislation.
Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo
Parents, advocates and lawmakers gathered at Roosevelt Elementary to call on Governor Hochul to sign the legislation.

Elected officials, parents and advocates for more school funding are urging New York Governor Kathy Hochul to sign legislation allowing a Binghamton elementary school to access funding for badly needed repairs.

The future of Roosevelt Elementary on Binghamton’s North Side has been uncertain for years, in part because the school needs costly repairs and asbestos abatement. An estimate from the school district puts the cost at over $50 million.

The legislation spearheaded by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and state Senator Lea Webb passed in both houses earlier this year.

It would allow smaller cities like Binghamton to request double their multi-year allowance in state aid for capital projects, including Roosevelt’s renovations.

A source of community in a health care, child care, and food desert

Michael Cooper Sr. has sent all five of his children to Roosevelt Elementary. He said the school offers more than just education, it’s a source of community.

When his son Xavier passed away last year, Cooper said the school stepped up and supported him. He pointed out Roosevelt also has a health clinic and provides much-needed lunches and take-home meals.

“It shows how much everyone cares about the students, not just if they get into school, and test scores,” Cooper said. “But if they are fed, if they have health care, if their needs are being met.”

Roosevelt is the only school serving the city’s North Side, which is considered a food, health care and child care desert. According to statewide data, 84% of students at the school are economically disadvantaged.

“It shouldn’t be this hard”

Currently, only larger cities such as Syracuse, Rochester and New York can apply for the amount of funding officials argue Roosevelt needs.

“[The legislation] is a step in the direction to change that, to correct that inequity and will ensure that small city school districts, such as Binghamton city schools, will be able to get access to the resources they need to make important upgrades,” Senator Webb said.

Binghamton City School District Superintendent Tonia Thompson said Roosevelt will not be permanently closed, either way. The original idea to close the school received intense pushback from the community.

School district officials said with state aid, Roosevelt could finish the renovations in four years, rather than 25 years. With a shorter timeframe, the school districts said the project would end up costing $20 million less.

“Not only do we need it, but now's the time to do it to be efficient, and also to ultimately save taxpayers money,” Superintendent Thompson said. “But also so that our students right now that are in the school and in pre-K and kindergarten and first-grade classrooms can benefit from a new building.”

Assemblywoman Lupardo said the legislation is a long time coming.

“It shouldn't be this hard. It shouldn't have to be hard for small city school districts like these with enormous needs to get the attention they deserve, to get the resources that they need,” Assemblywoman Lupardo said.

There is also a petition urging Governor Hochul to sign the legislation. If she does, the bill will go to a ballot vote for Binghamton residents.