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State Budget Increases Education Funding, Adds Reporting Requirement for Schools

April 6, 2018

 

New York lawmakers have approved a state budget for 2018-19 that increases education funding by nearly $1 billion. The enacted state budget provides information about state aid levels to school districts as they finalize their own spending plans for the coming year. 

 

The newly approved state budget calls for total education spending of $26.7 billion, which represents an increase of 3.9 percent.

 

The overall state aid increase includes $619 million in additional Foundation Aid and growth of $240 million in reimbursements for designated expenses such as transportation, construction and BOCES services. These two categories – Foundation Aid and expense-based reimbursements – are the predominant sources of state funding for everyday school operations. The remainder of the new education funding will go toward a variety of targeted initiatives and grants, including the continued expansion of prekindergarten, afterschool programs and access to college-level courses in high-need areas.

 

Queensbury Union Free School District will see a $374,695 or 2.5 percent increase in Foundation Aid next year, but a planned reduction in building aid reimbursements will mean a decline in overall state aid of about $1 million or -4.1 percent.

 

In the current school year, state aid supports about 40 percent of the cost of the Queensbury education program.

 

“I appreciate local legislators’ work to secure some level of increase for Queensbury. Schools statewide are struggling to keep pace with escalating costs and a lack of equity in the state aid distribution process,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Douglas W. Huntley.

 

The final state budget did not include caps on expense-based reimbursements, which had been put forward by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his executive budget plan released in January. District leaders in Queensbury had shared their concerns about the proposal and advocated against it.

 

“The proposed cap to expense driven aids would have been crippling to education programs and local taxes. We are pleased that the legislature did not move this forward,” said Assistant Superintendent for Business Scott Whittemore.

 

Total school aid also is higher than what Cuomo initially proposed, but falls short of the $1.5 billion increase, at least, that education advocates and the Board of Regents had identified as necessary for schools in 2018-19.

 

Reporting requirement focuses on school spending

The state budget contains a new requirement for districts to report information to the state about school building-level budget allocations for an upcoming school year. The requirement initially applies to about 76 districts, including those located in a city with a population of more than 1 million and those with at least four schools and 50 percent of total revenue coming from state aid. By 2020-21, the requirement expands to all districts across the state.

 

The budget language stipulates that school districts could have their state aid increases withheld in a given year until they are deemed to be in full compliance with the new reporting requirement.

 

Education groups have criticized the new reporting requirement as an unnecessary duplication of a similar measure under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and as having the potential to undermine local control of education. Cuomo has touted it as promoting greater transparency and equity in education spending.

 

“The additional reporting requirement from the state negatively impacts local control, which is not preferable. I do agree with the concept of equitably funding education, but we’d like to see improved equity in the way New York distributes state aid. Queensbury has not received more than $35 million in Foundation Aid due to the state using old demographic data, and as a result, distributing it to other schools with less need. So we agree with funding schools equitably, but we would like to see the state take efforts to address issues in their own funding formulas,” said Whittemore.

 

New funds structured to benefit schools, taxpayers

In the final state budget, a provision now allows school districts to establish charitable funds to receive monetary donations. It also allows for a similar fund at the state level to support elementary and secondary education in public schools.

 

These funds are part of a broader effort by state lawmakers to cushion New Yorkers from the cap on the deductibility of state and local taxes that is now part of the federal tax law.

 

“It is unclear at this time how the new charitable deduction will impact Queensbury. Schools and taxpayers need more details from the state, and there may be challenges at the federal level,” said Huntley.

 

Funding for targeted education initiatives in state budget

The following are additional highlights of education spending and programs included in the newly enacted state budget:

  • Community Schools: The Foundation Aid increase includes a $50 million set-aside for community schools, resulting in $200 million total for a range of programs and services in schools designated as struggling and in other high-need districts.
  • Prekindergarten: The state budget includes an additional $15 million to serve more of the state’s three- and four-year-old children in prekindergarten programs.
  • Afterschool Programs: An additional $10 million will expand the Empire State After School Grants program to more high-need communities, with a focus on school districts with high rates of childhood homelessness.
  • Early College High Schools: An additional $9 million will help create 15 new early college high school programs across the state, with a focus on communities with low rates of graduation and college access. There also is funding to assist low-income students with Advanced Placement fees.
  • School Meals: The state budget contains several new provisions designed to combat childhood hunger. For example, if at least 70 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, a district must provide breakfast for all students after the school day has started. This and other measures are designed to ensure that students who are unable to pay still have access to a regular school meal and are not singled out. There also is funding to provide greater school meal reimbursement rates for districts that use food from New York farmers and producers.
  • Availability of Feminine Hygiene Products: A new mandate requires schools that serve grades 6-12 to provide feminine hygiene products in restrooms at no charge to students.

Additional Resources

Governor Cuomo Announces Highlights of the FY 2019 State Budget (Governor of New York State)  

Fiscal Year 2019 Enacted State Budget (New York State Division of the Budget)  

2018-19 State Aid Projections (Governor of New York State) 

Advocacy Update: Final State Budget Deal Reached (New York State School Boards Association)