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February 2008
Overview of the Education Budget 2008-2009

Passage of the State Education Budget and Reform Act of 2007 – 2008 in April 2007 made the promise of funding equity a reality as envisioned by the 13 year long struggle of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE).  All children attending public schools in New York State (and not simply those in New York City) were to have access to the quality education guaranteed by the NY State Constitution.

The law committed a $7 billion increase in school aid over the next four years, $5.5 billion in foundation and classroom operating aid.

It also introduced the use of a transparent and reliable formula based on need to ensure that the foundation aid is distributed to serve students  and not politicians. It committed to a four year phase-in to achieve adequate funding – 1.1 billion in 2007-2008, 1.25 billion in 2008-2009, 1.51 billion in 2009-2010 and 1.65 in 2010-2011.  Thus school districts could predict reliably their future funding enabling them to plan improvements consistent with the constitutional standard. 

Finally, it provided an accountability tool, the Contract for Excellence, requiring low-performing districts receiving substantial increases to propose transparent plans for improvement. Specifically, the plan had to show how the district would distribute the money to the schools, what strategies it would propose, what programmatic supports it would use to promote improvement and – most important – what achievements it sought. There is also a provision for public participation in the development of the Contract.

For me the Contract is a great way to promote school improvement, especially via professional development. It is a transparent accountability tool tied to foundation aid. It focuses on high-need schools and the dollars spent must relate to increasing student achievement.

Governor Spitzer started out great last year, increasing education aid by dramatically by $1.76 billion and restructuring the formula.  The PSPB enunciated its budget/legislative priorities against that background.  They were:

  • Expanded Early Childhood Programs
  • Enhanced Teacher Quality
  • Teacher Centers (Increased Funding)
  • Restructured Foundation Aid Formula
  • Strengthened Higher Education

However, in the second year of the Four-Year Educational Investment Plan, despite the Governor’s proposal for an overall increase in the Education Budget ($1.46 billion), certain elements in the budget are experiencing declines. The overall school budget for FY’09 is $21 billion.

This newly proposed Education budget increases Foundation Aid ($899 million), continues to expand Universal Pre-kindergarten Programs, proposes measures to improve nutritional quality of the food served in schools, supports expansion and replication of proven programs and models related to English Language Learners and expands Math/Science initiatives.

However, there is a predicted $4.4 billion shortfall in the overall New York State budget which the Governor obviously has to take into account.  He has asked Executive Agencies to cut back and reshaped the budget priorities in several areas,

For example, in the area of Education, the Governor’s budget predicted increases in Foundation Aid at 1.24 billion for the FY’09 school year. The increase is actually $899 million (which is more than schools received last year).  Other decreases are noteworthy.  In last year’s budget, school districts’ foundation aid increases were capped at 25%. The Governor’s budget reduces the cap to 15% this time!. 

In the area of higher education there is good news and bad news.  The good news is a significantly increased budget with noteworthy faculty expansion.  The bad news is reduced student aid programs, among other items.

It is against this very brief background that the PSPB announces its own legislative/ budget priorities for this up-coming year.  In January 2008 we selected:

  • Professional Development
  • Mentoring
  • P-16 Data System
Details related to those priorities are attached.  PSPB members are encouraged to assess and amend them before we cross Washington Avenue and State Street to educate legislators about them. From my own perspective it is important for these legislators to be aware of our presence and our continuing commitment – along with all those in the army of NY State educators – to the students we serve. The more we know, the better the job we can do!
         
Evelyn Jones Rich
 
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