Story and photo by Alice Gerard
The Grand Island Central School District anticipates receiving $1.96 million in foundation aid for the 2023-24 school year, an increase of 14.7% over the 2022-23 school year, said Dr. Rubie Harris, assistant superintendent for school business and finance. Two programs that are anticipated to receive increases in state funding are the universal prekindergarten program and a new state program initiative called “high impact tutoring.”
This information and more were presented at the Board of Education’s first budget input meeting, held Feb. 13 at Grand Island High School. A budget update will be presented at the second budget input meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 13, at the high school.
High-impact tutoring is called a set-aside program, meaning that funds from foundation aid are set aside to cover the cost of the initiative.
According to a press release from Gov. Kathy Hochul, the purpose of high-impact tutoring is to remediate negative impacts of the pandemic on student learning: “The effects of the pandemic on student learning were particularly acute in New York. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the percentage of fourth-grade students in New York performing at or above basic proficiency levels dropped 10 percentage points in math (from 76% to 66%) and 8 percentage points in reading (from 66% to 58%), a larger drop than the national average.”
“I think the point of it is to be very focused and driven in the areas of reading and math, so you’re having a high impact in those two academic areas or subject areas for those students, so it’s also very targeted,” Harris said. “It’s not K-12; it’s 3-8. It’s reading and math. It is said to be designated for those who are at risk for falling behind state standards. It is something that must supplement, not supplant, the existing local, state and federal funds, meaning it has to be additions to the program that already exist, not saying ‘I have a teacher that does tutoring already, and I’ll just use those funds to cover the cost for that program.’ It has to be something in addition to what you do for the students. So, it’s new and it’s an add-on program.”
The state is also increasing funding for the universal prekindergarten program, Harris explained: “Universal prekindergarten aid has increased for school districts, which allows for more slots.”
According to Hochul’s office, the state anticipates adding “another $125 million to expand high-quality, full-day prekindergarten, benefitting approximately 17,500 additional 4-year-old children and their families, and bringing the state’s total annual investment in high-quality prekindergarten to $1.2 billion.”
For Grand Island, that would mean an anticipated increase in state funding for universal prekindergarten of “$405,000, which translates to a 69.11% increase over the 2022-23 school year. For the 2022-23 school year, the state provided $586,023 in aid, and the anticipated aid for the 2023-24 school year is $991,023. That is equivalent to the addition of 75 new UPK slots, so that brings it to a total of 185 available slots for universal prekindergarten.
“It allows for more children to participate in the program, if the need is actually there for additional children to participate,” Harris said. “Meaning now we have more kids on the Island that are in that age category that would attend the program: 4 years old whose parents want them to participate in UPK. The lottery for that is based on submitting applications, and that information is being worked on, as well, as we speak. There will be something forthcoming going out to families, so they know to submit applications to participate in the lottery process.
“This year, we had 110 slots, and we filled those slots. There may have been one or two people that were left on a waiting list. So, the thought is that every family that puts in a request to participate, their child will be placed somewhere.”
Next time: Other budget changes and the impact of cost increases on the school district.