Boost in school aid to benefit students, districts say

Posted

Among the highlights of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s state budget for fiscal year 2022, released Tuesday, is $29.5 billion allocated toward state aid for schools, which is $3 billion more than the prior fiscal year.

According to the governor’s office, the increase in state aid is a record for the state. All school districts within the region are slated to receive an increase in aid.

Here are some highlights of the education funding:

State aid to school districts will increase to $29.5 billion, a $3 billion increase from the prior fiscal year.

$1.4 billion Foundation Aid increase with a commitment to fully fund the state’s foundation aid formula over the next three years.

$105 million expansion of full-day prekindergarten, providing pre-K funding to 210 districts who don’t currently receive state-funded full-day Pre-K.

It does not appear that the state is withholding the federal funds from the American Rescue Plan.

“Westmoreland saw an increase in Foundation Aid of 3% over 2020-21. This was bigger than I would have anticipated just a few months ago, and is in line with the save harmless provision in the law, so we’re grateful to have received this,” said Westmoreland Central School Superintendent Rocco J. Migliori, whose district is slated to see a $1.2 million increase in aid — but he cautioned the projected increase can be misleading.

“This is an increase of about $230,000 in Foundation Aid. The state aid projections will show a total increase of about $1.15 million, but it’s important to keep in mind that that amount includes increases of about $250,000 in BOCES aid, $70,000 in transportation aid and $400,000 in building aid,” Migliori explained. “Each of those three aid categories are expense-driven aids, which means we purchase services from BOCES this year, provide transportation services this year, and make debt payments on capital projects this year and the state reimburses us a percentage of those expenditures in the next budget year.  So, a $1.15 million increase in aid is a little misleading.”

He said, “Of that increase more than $700,000 is a reimbursement for expenditures we have already made and those reimbursements are guaranteed to us by law. So again, we are grateful to the Legislature for the increase in Foundation Aid, but I don’t want people to be misled and think that we received an additional $1.15 million in aid this year.”

The increase in aid, Migliori said, does show that the State Legislature did listen to schools’ concerns and “came through” in multiple ways. 

“They rejected many of the governor’s proposals that we felt would have been detrimental to schools, such as the consolidation of aids, changes to STAR, the development of a pandemic funding adjustment, etc., and ensured that any federal stimulus money would not supplant the state’s responsibility to fund public education,” said the superintendent. “The federal stimulus money will instead be supplemental to the aid package and allow us to develop programs that will directly benefit kids. The Legislature deserves to be commended for making sure public education remained a priority in the budget negotiations this year.”  

Rome City Schools Superintendent Peter C. Blake said it was nice to see that the Legislature was able to begin the process of getting schools fully funded on their Foundation Aid.

“Every bit of money that we can get back that we are owed is a good thing,” said Blake. “We will most likely receive closer to $5.1 million in aid when it’s all said and done in July of 2022. The state inputs for their formulas are based off of anticipated expenditures, and we project to spend less money this year than the state is assuming. Regardless, it is still a nice increase for our community when until now, all signs were pointing toward another year of a zero increase.”

New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Robert Schneider said NYSSBA appreciates the commitment to students’ ongoing educational needs – as well as the extraordinary needs brought on by the global pandemic – shown in the 2021-22 budget approved by the governor and the state Legislature.

Paired with approximately $12 billion in funding from the recent federal stimulus packages, the budget will go a long way to help school districts bolster academic enrichment, social-emotional supports and facilities needs as we recover and move forward, Schneider said.

“A $1.4 billion increase in Foundation Aid will strengthen support for individual districts by at least 2% this year and put all districts on track for full funding of foundation aid within three years,” said the executive director. “This is a goal that has been elusive for far too long in New York and that NYSSBA has called for consistently. We applaud this solid commitment to the principle that the quality of a child’s education should never depend on a family’s zip code.”

Schneider said, “With this clear commitment to equity, our state is poised to move forward on many issues identified by our members as priorities for students and local school districts. We are gratified by our lawmakers’ investments in expansion of pre-kindergarten, and we look forward to continued progress in providing greater broadband access to all students, regardless of their geographic location or income.”

In another bit of good budget news for school districts, under the budget districts will be reimbursed for the cost of delivering school meals and instructional materials during pandemic-related school closures in spring 2020. Since transportation is a reimbursed item by the state and typically dependent on the actual transportation of students, it was feared that the state could have withheld the reimbursements despite being mandated to provide the services.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment