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$1.5 billion state aid increase needed to maintain education programs

by jmaloni


Sat, Feb 1st 2014 12:00 pm

The New York state Educational Conference Board reports aid to education would need to rise by a minimum of $1.5 billion in 2014-15 for schools to maintain current education programs.

The ECB also requests additional investments in two areas critical to preparing all students to be college and career-ready: professional development activities to implement shifts required by the Common Core, and the expansion of universal pre-kindergarten.

In its latest issue brief, "Financing Public Education in New York State," the ECB estimates school districts will need to increase spending by $2.2 billion in 2014-15 merely to maintain current programs. This figure reflects moderate assumptions about cost increases necessary to maintain current educational programs and the limitation imposed by the tax cap on the ability to raise revenues from local sources.

"Our schools are in desperate need of these funds due to the impact of past cuts in state support and the limits on local support imposed by the state tax cap," said ECB Chairman John Yagielski.

Total formula aid for schools in 2013-14 is below 2008-09 funding, and 75 percent of school districts are scheduled to receive less in state aid in 2013-14 than in 2008-09. An estimated 30,000 school district positions were lost over this period of time.

This year, a decrease in the inflation rate will reduce the amount of property taxes schools will be able to raise for the 2014-15 school year without exceeding the tax cap. As a result, the ECB believes the state needs to pay for at least two-thirds of the increased costs representing a state aid increase of $1.5 billion to allow schools to maintain existing programs and pay for new initiatives.

The ECB brief offers several other recommendations for state leaders:

•Eliminate the $1.6 billion gap elimination adjustment that was implemented in 2010 to help the state eliminate its budget deficit. The ECB recommends phasing out the GEA over the next two years with a priority on high-need and low-fiscal-capacity districts. The ECB supports the Regents recommendation that districts that have their GEAs eliminated would automatically receive any additional state aid generated as a foundation aid increase.

•Provide any additional state aid in the form of formula aid rather than competitive grants. The ECB urges state policymakers not to offer any additional competitive funding programs until the GEA is eliminated. Schools need recurring operating funds to support their instruction programs, and pitting districts against one another in a competitive funding program works at cross-purposes with this goal.

•Create a new foundation aid formula that builds on the strengths of the 2007 formula while recognizing its shortcomings. The foundation aid formula represented a valuable policy accomplishment when it was enacted in 2007, but its implementation stalled beginning in 2009. Originally this formula was designed to be phased in over four years and a new costing-out study performed to update the level of funding. However, five years after the initial freeze in funding, the state is no closer to fully funding the foundation aid formula than it was in 2007 when it was enacted.

The Educational Conference Board is comprised of organizations that represent school boards, parents, superintendents, teachers, principals, business officials and other educators.

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