Governor Cuomo is proposing an increase in school aid of over three-quarters of a billion dollars or around 3% from last year, but some say that’s not enough to meet school districts’ rising costs.
The $769 million dollar hike is about half of the increase that schools ultimately received in last year’s budget. Governor Cuomo, in his budget presentation to the legislature, says he anticipates some blowback.
Everyone is going to say to you what they say to me, "I want more." That is the constant refrain. "I want more for education. I want more for health care. I want more for infrastructure. I want more for mental health." And everybody's right,” Cuomo said. “But everybody's wrong. It's a question of balancing resources.”
Cuomo says with a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, and uncertainties in funding from Washington, spending needs to be lower this year.
The pro-school funding group Alliance for Quality Education, in a statement, accused Cuomo of “perpetuating educational racism and economic inequality” for not including billions of additional dollars to comply with a decade and a half old court order to fully fund schools in poorer school districts.
The New York State Board of Regents has recommended that funding be increased by $1.6 billion dollars this year. The State School Boards Association’s Tim Kremer says schools need the additional aid because their costs are rising.
“We’re not just trying to be greedy, and we recognize it’s a tough budget year,” Kremer said.
But Kremer says most of the additional money proposed by the governor is earmarked for mandatory programs. And he says the teachers’ retirement system has already notified schools that they will have to contribute more to the pension system, which could total an additional $200 million more dollars next year.
The head of the state’s Business Council, Heather Briccetti says the state already spends more than most other states on education but does not rank among the top-rated schools in the nation.
“We are not number one in terms of results,” Briccetti said. “There’s definitely a lot of savings to be had.”
Republican State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who led the Senate Education Committee for several years, says he might go along with the governor’s proposal, given that it’s a tight budget year.
“That’s a lot of money,” said Flanagan. He said those in other parts of government, like the environment or transportation departments, “they would all graciously welcome 3%, especially in a year like this.”
The legislature traditionally adds money to school aid in the final version of the budget, and Democratic Assembly Speaker, Carl Heastie, says he expects his house will do that.
“Education and healthcare are two assemblymembers, like your brother and your sister,” Heastie said. “You love them both and you want to do more.”
But he says if lawmakers want to add to the governor’s budget, they are going to have to find more revenues, on top of the $1.3 billion dollars in new taxes and fees that Cuomo has already proposed. And he admits that will be challenging.