The New York State Board of Regents has asked for a $2 billion increase in the state’s education funding for the next fiscal year beginning April 1, 2015.
In all, the Regents are requesting that $24.4 billion be spent on the state’s education system next year — a 9% increase.
The proposal comes as a result of a $5 billion windfall that benefited the state as a result of legal settlements from a variety of banks and insurers. The unexpected funds will push budget discussions in the state to begin in January well ahead of the March 31 deadline.
At a meeting on Monday, the full board approved the request.
“It adds up to $2 billion, but I would simply say to everyone: Report the headline, but let’s get down underneath it,” said Regent James Tallon, who represents Binghamton, Ithaca and Elmira. “And let’s have the serious conversation, because this is a recommendation that I believe would enhance the entirety of the program that we, and especially our colleagues in the 700 districts in the state, are trying to undertake.”
School districts in the state would benefit the most from the request, gaining an additional $526 million in general aid for local schools over last year as well as $597 million that would be used to help restore the Gap Elimination Adjustment implemented during the financial crisis of 2009.
The state’s annual budget sees the most money spent on education and Medicaid, health insurance for the poor and disabled. This fiscal year, the state’s budget totaled $137 billion with $22.3 billion earmarked for education.
The state Educational Conference Board, made of education groups across the state, has asked for an increase of $1.9 billion. In the end, it is up to Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to decide how much the state will spend on education.
While Cuomo did increase education spending last year by $1.1 billion, a 5% uptick, he has publicly spoken out about the money the state spends on education achieving “mediocre” results. The state has the highest per capita spending on education in the nation at ~$19,000 per student.
Cuomo would like to see education spending tied to district performance, which would result in competitive grant programs for schools as well as tougher teacher evaluations. During this year’s election he promised to help the state’s education system, which he referred to as a “public monopoly.” Cuomo is a supporter of charter schools.
The election also brought voter approval of the $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act that will allow technological improvements to be made to outdated public school classrooms, including more usable space, better security, and new tools, including iPads and interactive whiteboards.
There has been no official word from the governor’s budget office concerning the Regents’ request.
The plan includes a number of one-time costs, including $360 million toward reimbursing districts who are owed money for transportation and special education, $238 million for pre-kindergarten grants, $30 million on new voting machines and $50 million for upgrades to BOCES facilities for job-training programs.
“This is not an either/or proposition,” Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said in a statement. “The resources exist to help lift student achievement across the board, and the Regents will continue to advocate forcefully to make sure our students get the funding they need to succeed.”