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Governor proposes 3% increase in NYS school funding

photo of a person looking at financial data on a laptop
Jan. 29, 2020 -- On Tuesday, Jan. 21, New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented his executive budget proposal that calls for a 3% increase in overall education funding for the 2020-21 school year. The increase directs more funding to high-need districts, consolidates and/or slows the growth of certain reimbursements to schools and continues to invest in prekindergarten and afterschool programs.

The release of the executive budget represents the beginning of the state budget negotiations between the governor and the legislature. There is an April 1 deadline for the state budget, which provides school districts with critical information about state aid as they plan their own budgets for the coming year.

The governor’s education funding proposal is less than half of the $2 billion increase recommended by the New York State Board of Regents for the 2020-21 year. Similarly, the Educational Conference Board, a coalition of statewide education organizations, says a $2.1 billion increase is necessary to allow schools to maintain current services and expand opportunities and support for students.

For Marcellus, the governor’s proposal increases foundation aid a mere $24,882 — just 0.25% of foundation aid or 0.06% of the district’s total budget.  This is concerning for district administrators.

“New York’s financial commitment to education is second to none,” district Business Administrator Anthony Sonnacchio said. “Although the governor’s proposed budget calls for a statewide 3% increase in funding, it provides very little additional funding for the Marcellus community.  It is essential that our legislators direct more aid to middle class districts like Marcellus so we can continue to provide the education our students deserve.”

The first draft of next year’s budget was presented to the Marcellus Board of Education on Jan. 27. Although it's early in the process, initial figures show a $595,000 gap between projected revenues and expenditures.

"This helps clarify how little the governor’s proposed increase of $24,882 helps the Marcellus community," Mr. Sonnacchio said.

How would aid be distributed throughout the state?

The vast majority of the proposed statewide increase would go toward three funding categories:
  • $504 million increase in Foundation Aid, the primary source of day-to-day general operating aid for schools;
  • An additional $200 million in Foundation Aid targeted to high-need districts (this $200 million is not yet distributed and does not appear in the state aid runs that can be found at the link above); and
  • $72 million in expense-based aid reimbursements in areas such as transportation and capital improvements.
According to the governor, 85% of the Foundation Aid increase would go toward high-need districts, as he highlighted “equity” between wealthy districts and poorer districts as one of his major priorities. High-need districts are generally school districts that serve a significant number of students who live in poverty and have the least local resources to support education. He called on state lawmakers to work with him to develop a new educational funding formula that similarly focuses on equalizing resources between wealthy and poorer school districts.

Additional highlights of the executive budget related to education

  • Consolidating expense-based aids: The governor proposed consolidating several categories of expense-based aids into Foundation Aid, which he said would result in more Foundation Aid being provided to high-need districts. These aids currently reimburse school districts based on spending in particular areas, providing a recurring source of revenue to support school services. Aid categories that would be newly incorporated into Foundation Aid include: BOCES, software, hardware, library and supplemental public excess cost (reimbursements for certain expenses associated with students with disabilities).
  • Limiting Building and Transportation Aid: The executive budget proposal calls for a cap on growth in future reimbursements to schools for student transportation, based on an inflation factor and any enrollment growth, and a new tier of reimbursement levels for school construction projects.
  • Diversity and Tolerance: The proposal includes $1 million for the development of a statewide curriculum on diversity and tolerance.
  • STEM Entrepreneur: The governor’s proposal includes $500,000 to establish a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Entrepreneur in Residence pilot program in high-need middle schools.
  • STAR Program: In order to facilitate the STAR program’s shift from a school tax bill exemption to a state tax credit, the governor proposed lowering the income limit for those who receive the exemption to $200,000. The income limit for the tax credit would remain at $500,000. No change to benefits is proposed with this shift. The governor’s proposal would help late Enhanced STAR filers by reopening the enrollment period for the Income Verification Program.
  • Support for Charter Schools and Nonpublic Schools: The budget contains increases for charter school tuition, per-pupil funding for charter schools in New York City and aid to nonpublic 

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