WSWHE Chief School Officers' 2019 Legislative Priorities
Fund and adjust the foundation aid formula
The foundation aid formula was put in place several years ago as part of an effort to provide for a transparent, equitable and reliable funding stream for school districts. It was designed to supplement other forms of district revenue, specifically the local tax levy. With the implementation of the tax levy cap, it is critical that the Foundation Aid Formula be adequately funded. Recommended changes include, but are not limited to the following:
- Review and update the foundation amount - currently $6,557 per pupil.
- Since the great recession, area school districts have seen a notable increase in the Free and Reduced Rate for School Lunch (FRPL) count. The foundation aid formula was designed prior to the “great recession” and the tax cap. Adjust the weighting factor for Free and Reduced Lunch from .65 to .75-.80 to reflect large increases in this population.
- Maintain the “SAVE Harmless” provision. Many districts have lost enrollment, however, the enrollment decrease is generally not sufficient to further decrease staffing.
- Provide a minimum increase in foundation aid to all school districts.
Increase the $30,000 threshold on BOCES Aid for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs
Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs provide students with essential skills that prepare them for college and careers. However, the existing state aid formula for CTE programs operated by BOCES only provides aid for the first $30,000 of a BOCES instructor’s salary, although the average salary of a CTE teacher is now $65,000. The current salary cap was established in 1992 and must be increased to ensure that students have access to the CTE pathway by providing 100 percent aid ability for the salaries of CTE teachers.
Building aid for small capital projects
Current law allows school districts to be reimbursed for base year capital outlay expenses for one project each year that has a total cost of $100,000 or less without being subject to the lengthy assumed amortization schedule that otherwise exists. This helps districts to undertake smaller, but important capital projects, receive aid much quicker, while saving the State money on interest payments. Because the threshold amount of $100,000 was established in 2002 and not increased since that time, raising the threshold amount to $250,000 would assist districts in making critical capital improvements.
SMART Schools Bond Act
The process for distributing this funding has been slow and unpredictable, making it difficult for schools to take full advantage of this funding opportunity. To ensure that the funding is available in a timely manner for schools, the process must be improved and expedited by establishing firm deadlines by which projects are approved and funded.