Education advocacy groups, legislators and teachers said today that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 3.8 percent increase in school aid wouldn’t be enough to cover schools’ growing costs.
They reiterated their call that Cuomo increase school aid by nearly 10 percent, or a $1.9 billion increase. Cuomo proposed a $807 million increase for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which starts April 1. His plan would bring school aid to nearly $22 billion, Gannett’s Ashley Hupfl reports.
“The school-aid dollars are simply devastating. After five straight years of classroom cuts this will mean yet another round of cuts,” Billy Easton, executive director of Alliance for Quality Action, a labor-backed group, at an news conference near the Capitol.
The current 2013-2014 budget had a 4.9 percent increase in education aid. Cuomo and lawmakers have tied increases in school aid to personal income growth. School aid has increased in the last two years after being flat or declining for several years.
Education groups, though, said the state’s roughly 700 school districts would need $1.1 billion just to prevent cuts to programs and staff this year.
Last week, 83 members of the Legislature sent a letter to Cuomo pushing for the $1.9 billion increase
“We really need to have a better understanding of what these budgets mean to the classroom. I’m hearing, what we heard this morning, especially in smaller school districts, this budget means more cuts in their classroom. We need to do better,” said Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, Schenectady County, who signed the letter.
The Legislature has until March 31 to approve or change Cuomo’s budget. They typically fight for more school aid for their local districts.
New York spends the most per capita on schools in the nation—$19,076 per student, according to census data.
Last month, the state Board of Regents recommended a 6 percent increase in school aid and said an increase of $1.3 billion is needed for struggling districts, particularly rural and urban districts, as well as to fund pre-kindergarten programs.
Cuomo’s school aid plan includes $1.5 billion for statewide pre-kindergarten over five years and $720 million for after-school programs over the same period. Cuomo said the state would spend $20 million for bonuses of $20,000 for “highly effective” evaluated teachers.
In his budget address on Tuesday, Cuomo said his plan “is one of the largest investments in education that this state has made, and we’re proud of that.”
His proposal also included a $2 billion bond act on the November ballot to fund classroom technology upgrades.
At the same time, Cuomo is calling for about $2 billion in tax cuts over the next three years, including a two-year property tax freeze. In its second year, the tax freeze would go to communities where schools and municipalities cut their tax levy by 1 percent.
Schools also said they dealing with a property-tax cap that limits the growth in taxes to 2 percent a year. The tax freeze would be available in communities that adhere to the tax cap, which was implemented in 2011.
Cuomo also said he would create a panel to recommend changes to Common Core, the controversial testing standards for students.
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, Ontario County, said Cuomo needs to address inequities in funding for rich and poor districts, part of the so-called gap elimination funding stream.
“Education reform is critical, but in addition to re-evaluating the Common Core standards, we must substantially restore the Gap Elimination Adjustment to provide critical financial assistance to school districts that annually face teacher layoffs and program cuts,” Kolb said in a statement.