Governor Cuomo’s school aid proposal for 2016-17:
Don’t Be Fooled!
On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented a state budget proposal that includes a $991 million school aid increase for 2016-17.
While that may sound like it will be good for schools, the way in which this “aid” has been presented is very deceptive – and it’s not as good as it seems.
The budget proposal contained a $2.1 billion total school aid increase over a two-year period, covering the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years. The $991 million increase proposed for the first of those years would represent a 4.3 percent increase in state education funding.However, the proposed year-to-year increase is less than half of what the state’s own Board of Regents and statewide education groups have said schools need next year to ensure students’ success. By contrast, in December, the Board of Regents recommended a $2.4 billion total school aid increase for 2016-17 alone.
The bulk of the aid increase proposed for next year would be split three ways: $408 million to reimburse schools for costs such as transportation, construction and BOCES services (funds schools must spend before the state will reimburse them); $266 million for Foundation Aid, the main source of funding for general school operations; and $189 million to partially restore the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), a practice of diverting promised funding from schools that began six years ago to help the state deal with a budget shortfall at that time.
The GEA Shell Game:
What is astounding about the Governor’s school aid proposal is that the partial restoration of GEA to schools is INCLUDED as part of the “increase” in the state aid runs, which means schools are not really getting the money back. The state is not in debt, but continues to use the GEA as a revenue stream, at the expense of every public school student in New York.
The Executive Budget Proposal outlined by Governor Cuomo on Jan. 13 formally opened the budget negotiations between the governor and the New York State Legislature. In the coming months, the Assembly and the Senate will also release budget proposals. Legislators have until April 1 to adopt an on-time state budget.
Other education items in the governor’s executive budget:
§ Community schools: The proposal provides $100 million to implement community school initiatives such as health services and summer learning opportunities in districts with schools identified by the state as “failing” or “persistently failing” as well as some targeted high-need districts.
§ Universal Prekindergarten: The proposal continues the state’s universal prekindergarten initiative by including $22 million for expanded access for 3-year-olds. As of this school year, 460 of the state’s 674 school districts offer prekindergarten slots to 120,582 children.
§ Charter Schools: The proposal includes an additional $27 million in support for charter schools.
§ STAR: The proposal would cap annual STAR (School Tax Relief) growth at zero percent. Enhanced STAR income verification would become mandatory, eliminating the need for seniors to re-apply for their benefit annually, according to the New York State Division of Budget. For new homeowners, the property tax exemption benefit of the STAR program would change to a refundable personal income tax credit.
§ Parental Choice in Education Act: The proposal creates a $150 million program to provide tax credits for the following: donations to scholarships for low- and middle-income students to attend non-public schools or public schools outside their home districts; donations to public school educational improvement programs such as prekindergarten and after-school activities; eligible tuition expenses; and teacher expenses, up to $200, for the purchase of classroom supplies and materials.
§ Non-public school support: The proposal includes a $174 million, or 4 percent, increase in state aid for non-public schools.
§ Early College High School: The proposal includes a $4 million investment to expand early college programs for high school students.
In his address, Cuomo also urged the state Education Department to move forward with the recommendations of his recent Common Core Task Force, including reviewing and adjusting the Common Core standards and addressing issues with state assessments. He said the number of students who opted out of last year’s assessments signified a loss of parental trust in the state’s education system and acting on the task force’s recommendations would help restore it.