New York Budget Passes, Increases School Funding by $1.6 Billion


In New York state, many school districts will be receiving an increase in state aid to the tune of over 10%. Districts have been in the process of developing 2015-2016 school year budgets based on last year's state aid numbers, set to be voted on next month, says Elizabeth Ganga of The Journal News. It was only after Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed education reforms were passed that the projected aid numbers were released. Several of the reforms, like changes to teacher evaluations, have been taken out of the budget and will be finalized in the next few months.

Some officials were happy with the increases and were glad to have the amounts being given before their budgets were finalized. Kenneth Hamilton, superintendent of the Mount Vernon school district, said the almost $10 million increase in aid for his schools will allow the restoration of guidance counselors, in-class support teachers for students who are struggling, and full-time nurses, along with other improvements. He is also convinced that the extra state aid will help eliminate the achievement gap.

The Ossining District received one of the larger state aid increases. Still, the district's superintendent, Ray Sanchez, said he is thankful for the additional aid but is concerned about some of the education reforms that are tied to the increase. Also, the raise in aid did not restore all the money that was taken from districts through the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), which was used by the state to balance the budget during the economic downswing.

A small number of schools will see a decline in state aid. Fayetteville-Manlius' state funds will decrease 1%, which is $112,635. The percentage adjustments in school aid do not include funding from the state for building renovation, reports Dave Tobin of the Syracuse Media Group.

The budget agreement that Gov. Cuomo and the New York legislature reached this week will increase aid to schools by $1.6 billion. WWNY-TV reports that Indian River Superintendent James Kettrick is enthusiastic.

"I've got to say it's a lot more of an optimistic picture as of this date compared to six, eight weeks ago where the governor had stated that don't expect an on-time budget," Kettrick said. "Now it's looking like clearer heads have prevailed on both sides."

A reform included in the latest agreement is a change to the amount of time it will take before a teacher can receive tenure. Instead of the current three years, it will now be four years, which is still a shorter period of time than the governor's five year recommendation.

In total, the budget included $23.5 billion in school funding, say Joseph Spector and Jon Campbell of The Journal News. However, the education package was immediately criticized by the state teachers union, specifically because of the new teacher evaluation system.

Watchdog groups expressed disapproval of Cuomo and lawmakers for speeding up the process of bills becoming laws on Tuesday, only hours after the statutes were printed. A coalition of government-reform advocates took issue with the fast-tracked process, saying it led to legislators voting on "a major reform bill with no one having a chance to review it, let alone read it."

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