Education Lobby Pushes New York’s Cuomo to Boost Budget


New York State’s education lobby is pushing Governor Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers to set aside an additional $2.2 billion next year for the public school budget.

The request came from the New York State Educational Conference Board, a coalition of the seven major education groups in the state, at a news conference earlier this week in Albany.

Of the monies requested, $1.7 billion would be used to cover increased costs for schools, including salaries and health insurance, as well as $500 million that would be put aside for specific initiatives such as an expansion of the prekindergarten program in the state, as well as offering support to “struggling” schools.

The group also suggested that lawmakers approve $434 million to put an end to the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which takes back funding from the more affluent districts, and to use over $1 billion to increase the Foundation Aid funding formula, taking into account poverty levels and factors that will benefit low-income districts that predominantly serve minority students.

State officials are being asked to take a closer look at the property tax cap, which could put a 0% limit on tax increases for the following year.  According to the group, this could result in school districts being unable to raise enough funding from school property taxes.  They argue that the state has a “constitutional obligation” to provide the difference in funding.

A report from the New York State School Boards Association shows that part of the formula used for the property tax cap comes from the consumer price index.  The average monthly CPI did not change throughout the first nine months of 2015.

The tax cap is set each year at either 2% or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

The board would like to see the state set the cap at 2% and take the CPI out of the formula.

“Public schools are eager to rise to the challenge of a changing world and increased standards, but they need a responsive and reliable state partner to help,” Education Conference Board chairman John Yagielski said.

Schenectady City School District Superintendent Laurence Spring said an increase to formula funding could tremendously help the district.  Spring believes the district would receive over $60 million more if the foundation formula were to be fully funded by the state.  Over $20 million of that, he says, could be used to cut local school taxes.

Spring said the other funding would be used to increase mental health and literacy intervention services for elementary students, to provide intensive academic training to middle school students, and to ensure that internship opportunities are available for high school students.

Schenectady schools previously filed a civil rights complaint with the US Department of Justice, arguing that inequalities in state funding fall along racial and socioeconomic lines, writes Zachary Matson for The Daily Gazette.

“While we spend more per pupil than any other state, we are one of the least equitable in that spending … ” Spring said. “When you look at achievement disparities, it’s in the places that we are spending the least.”

The coalition would also like to see Cuomo include state aid runs in budget proposals.  For the first time this year, Cuomo withheld proposed school aid runs until an agreement on the budget was reached.