On Tuesday, Jan. 21, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented his executive budget proposal that calls for an $826 million increase in overall education funding for the 2020-21 school year.
For South Colonie, the governor has proposed a 4.72 percent for all aid categories and a 1.43 percent, or $234,250 foundation aid increase for the 2020-21 school year.
The proposed $826 million in additional education funding represents a 3 percent increase from the current year’s budget. However, it is less than half of the $2.0 billion increase recommended by the New York State Board of Regents for the 2020-21 year. Similarly, the Educational Conference Board, a coalition of statewide education organizations, says a $2.1 billion increase is necessary to allow schools to maintain current services and expand opportunities and support for students.
The governor’s priorities include steering more funding toward high-need districts, consolidating and/or slowing the growth of certain reimbursements to schools and continuing to invest in pre-kindergarten and afterschool programs.
The release of the executive budget represents the beginning of the state budget negotiations between the governor and the legislature. There is an April 1 deadline for the state budget, which provides school districts with critical information about state aid as they plan their own budgets for the coming year.
How would aid be distributed?
The vast majority of the proposed increase would go toward three funding categories:
- $504 million increase in Foundation Aid, the primary source of day-to-day general operating aid for schools;
- An additional $200 million in Foundation Aid targeted to high-need districts (this $200 million is not yet distributed and does not appear in the state aid runs that can be found at the link above); and
- $72 million in expense-based aid reimbursements in areas such as transportation and capital improvements.
According to the governor, 85 percent of the Foundation Aid increase would go toward high-need districts, as he highlighted “equity” between wealthy districts and poorer districts as one of his major priorities. High-need districts are generally school districts that serve a significant number of students who live in poverty and have the least local resources to support education. He called on state lawmakers to work with him to develop a new educational funding formula that similarly focuses on equalizing resources between wealthy and poorer school districts.
Additional highlights of the executive budget related to education
- Consolidating expense-based aids: The governor proposed consolidating several categories of expense-based aids into Foundation Aid, which he said would result in more Foundation Aid being provided to high-need districts. These aids currently reimburse school districts based on spending in particular areas, providing a recurring source of revenue to support school services. Aid categories that would be newly incorporated into Foundation Aid include: BOCES, software, hardware, library and supplemental public excess cost (reimbursements for certain expenses associated with students with disabilities).
- Limiting Building and Transportation Aid: The executive budget proposal calls for a cap on growth in future reimbursements to schools for student transportation, based on an inflation factor and any enrollment growth, and a new tier of reimbursement levels for school construction projects.
- Diversity and Tolerance: The proposal includes $1 million for the development of a statewide curriculum on diversity and tolerance.
STEM Entrepreneur: The governor’s proposal includes $500,000 to establish a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Entrepreneur in Residence pilot program in high-need middle schools.
- STAR Program: In order to facilitate the STAR program’s shift from a school tax bill exemption to a state tax credit, the governor proposed lowering the income limit for those who receive the exemption to $200,000. The income limit for the tax credit would remain at $500,000. No change to benefits is proposed with this shift. The governor’s proposal would help late Enhanced STAR filers by reopening the enrollment period for the Income Verification Program.
- Support for Charter Schools and Nonpublic Schools: The budget contains increases for charter school tuition, per-pupil funding for charter schools in New York City and aid to nonpublic schools for state-mandated activities and STEM learning.
Continued educational investments
The governor’s proposal also calls for continued investments in the areas outlined below.
- Prekindergarten: Funding to provide prekindergarten to an additional 2,000 three- and four-year-old children in high-need areas ($15 million).
- Afterschool Programs: Funding to provide 6,250 additional students with afterschool care, also in high-need communities ($10 million).
- Community Schools: $50 million of the Foundation Aid increase referenced above would be set-aside to turn high-need schools into community hubs that provide a range of student and family services. This would bring to $300 million the total amount of Foundation Aid set aside for these purposes.
- Early College High School: Funding for 10 additional early college high school programs, with a focus on serving communities with low graduation and/or college access rates ($6 million).
- Master Teachers Program: Support for an additional cohort of master teachers, designed to help further an environment of support and innovation for educators ($1.5 million).
- Excelsior Scholarship Program: Expansion of the Excelsior college scholarship program by raising the adjusted gross income threshold for eligibility from $125,000 to $150,000 over two years.