The following press release was written by the Alliance for Quality Education, a NY-based OTL Campaign ally.
For Immediate Release: March 31, 2014
Alliance for Quality Education Reaction and Fact Sheet on Budget
$1.1 Billion School Aid INcrease is Actually $500 Million More Than Governor Proposed
Governor and Senate Majority Ram Through Special Treatment and More Funding for Charters
ALBANY, NY – “This budget represents a major victory for students because the school aid increase will prevent many classroom programs from being cut,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “The relentless advocacy of parents, students, educators and communities pressured the legislature to overcome Governor Cuomo’s resistance to funding public schools. As budget negotiations wound down to a close, it became clear that Assembly Speaker Silver was carrying the water of public school students in negotiations, which resulted in the $500 million in additional aid. We wish to thank the Speaker, Assembly Education Chair Cathy Nolan and all the legislators who stood with us in our demand for $1.9 billion in school aid.”
“Governor Cuomo’s school finance policies have widened the educational opportunity gap between wealthy and poor communities and undercut the quality of education across the state. As a result many students are being deprived of the ‘sound basic education’ that is their constitutional right. While the enacted budget will save many programs and educational opportunities, it does not reverse the impacts of Governor Cuomo’s failed educational policies. Even with this budget increase many schools will still be forced to make classroom cuts. The Governor and the Senate Majority insisted on $400 million in the so-called “tax freeze” which will send election year checks in the mail targeted to the wealthy homeowners primarily in downstate suburban communities. This is $400 million which could have been used for school aid.”
“As the budget session progressed, Governor Cuomo repeatedly made verbal attacks on public schools and their advocates. A new political alliance emerged between the Governor and the corporate backers of a charter school privatization agenda. The corporate backers of charter schools poured over $5 million into attack ads and lobbying and found an avid advocate in Governor Cuomo – proving once again that money talks in Albany. Governor Cuomo used his political capital to push through more public funds for charter schools and sweeping reforms for New York City charters, which gives them rights to control public school space that exceed the rights of the public schools themselves.”
Fact Sheet on the Education Budget
School Aid Increases by $500 Million over Governor’s proposal
School aid numbers are always confusing. Different numbers are published for fiscal year and school year terms. The Governor’s school aid proposal included pre-K, but the enacted budget treats pre-K as an item that is separate from school aid.
The one reliable way to make an apples to apples comparison is by looking at the school aid runs. In the Executive Budget proposal, the school aid runs contain an increase of $603 million. The Enacted Budget school aid runs contain an increase of $1.1 billion. The enacted budget increases school aid by $500 million more than was proposed in the Governor’s budget. In an unprecedented move, the school aid increase was larger than the amount contained in either one-house budget bill. The additional $500 million included $250 million for foundation aid which is a single, transparent formula that distributes funds based on student need.
It is impossible at this time to analyze the fairness of the distribution. There were 18 different formulas used to distribute Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) Restoration funds—more formulas allow for more manipulation and less transparency.
The school aid increase will prevent many program cuts around the state, but it is likely that many districts will still make program cuts and layoffs of additional teachers and other educators.
The Governor’s budget proposal contained a $100 million investment in full-day pre-K funded by the state. Mayor de Blasio was seeking $340 million for pre-K for New York City and another $200 million for after-school programs to be financed by a small hike in the New York City tax on incomes over $500,000. The enacted budget contains $300 million in state funds for pre-K in New York City and $40 million for the rest of the state. The pre-K program contains quality requirements regarding: curriculum, learning environment, family engagement, staffing patterns, teacher education and experience, facility quality, and physical well-being, health and nutrition. The hike in the New York City income tax for high-end earners was rejected. Proposals to allow pre-K funding to be used to fund K-12 programs were rejected.
There is significant concern among pre-K advocates that the following provisions may serve as significant impediments to actual implementation of pre-K programs outside of New York City. School districts must first fund the pre-K program and then get reimbursed for expenditures. It creates a two-tiered rate structure of $10,000 per child in programs with certified teachers and $7,000 for programs where teachers are pursuing, but have not yet received, certification.
The legislation contains significant changes regarding charter schools. It includes a three year tuition hike for charter schools of $500 per pupil over the next three years. In the past, tuition hikes have always been paid out of local school district budgets which diverted the money out of public school classrooms, now these hikes will be paid out of state dollars.
For New York City charter schools, there are significant changes in law. These changes were originally proposed by the Senate Republican-Independent Democrat Majority Coalition and were championed in negotiations by the Governor. They include:
A requirement that charter co-locations approved prior to January 1, 2014 cannot be altered by New York City without the consent of the charter school. This has significant immediate and long-term implications
The right of refusal this legislation bestows on charter schools is a right that is currently denied to public schools in co-location situations. A public school has no say whatsoever in decisions about changes in space utilization that result from charter school co-locations.
It will require that two Success Academy elementary schools are co-located within high schools and that the city allow the expansion of the Success Academy school in PS 149 in Manhattan.
The legislation does nothing to protect severely disabled students at the public Mickey Mantle School in PS 149 who are scheduled to lose programs and space for services if the co-location proceeds.
A ban on New York City charging rent for charter school space.
A requirement that New York City either provides free space for charter school expansions or new co-locations or pays rent for these schools in private space. The first $40 million is paid by New York City and the rest will be paid 60% by New York State and 40% by New York City.
While these do not alter the mayoral control law, the above changes clearly undermine the powers of the Mayor under mayoral control.
There is a requirement that charter schools will be audited in New York City by the New York City Comptroller and in the rest of the state by the New York State Comptroller. This follows a court ruling, which had blocked such audits because charter schools are run by private, not public entities.
The “tax freeze” plan is highly inequitable. It provides much larger tax subsidies to the wealthiest communities than to high and average need communities and in fact prioritizes the wealthiest homeowners. It primarily benefits wealthy homeowners in downstate suburban communities. This is $400 million that could have been used for school aid statewide. Insofar as it is directly tied to school property taxes, it functions to widen the existing inequities between wealthy and poor school districts. New York State already has one of the largest spending gaps between wealthy and poor schools. The “tax freeze” is tied to the property tax cap, which serves to choke off local education funding—this year the cap averages 1.46% statewide.
Tax Credits for Private and Charter Schools
The proposal advanced by the Senate Republican-Independent Democrat Majority Coalition, with tacit support of the Governor, to create a tax credit that would provide $675 million in state funds to private and charter schools over the next three years was rejected.