New York’s education policymakers are asking the state to add $2.4 billion to the school system budget in 2016 because of financial challenges including increases in the cost of health-care and a rise in the minimum wage.
The state Board of Regents discussed the request this week in a move that would bring the amount the state spends on education to over $26 billion for the fiscal year that begins April 1, 2016, reports Jon Campbell of The Journal News.
The Regents’ plan would create a 10% increase over this school year and is being addressed at the same time school districts are calling foul over the state’s property tax cap, which may prevent the Regents from raising taxes to fund their budgets. Still, the plan will have to be approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislators who have to find a way to fit the cost into the approximately $142 billion state budget for the next fiscal year.
A memo from state Deputy Education Commission Elizabeth Berlin said:
“Unless additional State aid is provided, because of increases in fixed costs such as contractual obligations and legacy costs, school districts, particularly high needs districts, may struggle to maintain a full range of quality educational services for their students. To address this concern and avoid program cuts, we recommend that the state provide the full amount of projected cost increases.”
The memo also addressed the rising cost of teacher contracts.
The existing minimum wage in New York is $8.75 an hour, but a planned increase to $9 should take place on Dec. 31. Gov. Cuomo wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by July 2021. This plan will likely be among the outstanding issues state lawmakers will face when the new session begins in January.
According to the US Census Bureau, New York spent approximately $19,818 per student in 2013. The average nationwide was $10,700 at that time.
Driving the Regents’ request is the need for dollars to help restore a portion of the aid withheld after the crash of 2008. Board members and state Education Department staffers said money is needed to help local school districts that did not raise their local property taxes because of the state’s property tax cap, reports Rick Karlin, writing for the Times Union.
This year’s state school funding budget amounts to approximately $23.5 billion, which with the additional funding would be $25.9 billion. With local property taxes and federal aid, education spending would come to about $60 billion.
School Boards Association Executive Director Timothy Kremer said the expectation is that more school boards will try to create a tax cap override to meet the rising expenses. To exceed the cap, districts will need a 60% supermajority vote on the education budget.
The Regents want to add career-oriented classes to the tune of $75 million and double the $75 million used this year for 20 “persistently struggling” schools that are in receivership or under the control of local superintendents. If there is no improvement, these schools stand the chance of being taken over by charter schools or colleges next year.
The Regents are also hoping to receive funding for the 125 “struggling schools” that are under a two-year warning to improve or face outside takeover. They also want $400 million for “expense based” items like transportation and building costs, areas that are different from operating costs that mainly go to teaching staff.