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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Thu, Dec 4, 2008

AQE & CFE React to Regents Proposal for State School Aid Increase of $879 Million

Praise Regents Leadership in Tough Times in Calling on Governor Paterson to Maintain Commitment to School Children

The New York State Board of Regents released its state school aid proposal today calling
for $879 million in new school aid in 2009, a 4.1% increase. The proposal includes a
$586 million increase in foundation aid, $61 million in new funding for Pre-K and $44
million in Academic Enhancement Aid towards complying with the court ordered
commitment to provide every child the right to a quality education. In 2007 the
legislature and the governor enacted a commitment to phase-in a $7 billion increase in
school aid over four-years as a settlement to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. The
Regents proposal protects two centerpieces of the CFE settlement: the foundation
formula that provides for fair funding distribution and the Contract for Excellence
accountability system.

"By proposing $879 million in increased school aid this year, the Board of Regents is
providing the type of leadership our school children need in these difficult economic
times," said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. "While
the amount proposed by the Regents is less than the amount that is due to school kids this
year under the CFE settlement, the Regents have drawn a line in the sand that says New
York State must provide a serious commitment to our school children even in a fiscal
crisis. The Regents proposal essentially covers a little more than the normal inflationary
costs needed to let school districts maintain existing programs. If the Governor proposes
anything less school kids will face cuts in education programs. The Regents proposal
underscores the need for the Governor to advance serious revenue proposals, such as tax
increases on the state’s highest income earners, as part of a balanced and responsible
approach to the state budget. If the Governor fails to provide at least as much aid as the
Regents have proposed it will not only turn the clock back for school kids, it passes the
buck on the costs of education down to local homeowners."

Governor Paterson should heed the call of the Regents and look at their proposal as a
floor, not a ceiling on the payment due on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement this
year," said Helaine Doran, Deputy Director, Campaign for Fiscal Equity. “We have a
court ordered settlement and it must be met -- the Regents' proposal provides about half
of what is due this year. Governor Paterson must prioritize building onto the Regents
proposal and not backing away from our school children as his recent letter to school
boards and superintendents around the state suggested he may do."

The Regents are also proposing legislative changes to protect the increased investments
the state has made in our schools these past two years by strengthening accountability
under the Contracts for Excellence. The Contracts for Excellence have successfully
reduced class sizes, created tutoring and after school programs and other key reforms that
have focused resources on the neediest students. Without the legislative changes
proposed by the Regents the new moneys invested in the past two years would not be
subject to the accountability measures of the Contract for Excellence.

"Money and accountability have always gone hand-in-hand throughout the CFE
struggle," said Helaine Doran. "Without the legislative changes proposed by the Regents,
more than $1 billion invested in Contract for Excellence programs in the past year would
no longer be subject to the scrutiny of the Contract. The $44 million in Academic
Enhancement Aid will help maintain the Contract for Excellence programs by paying for
the inflationary costs of these reforms."

The Regents proposal would distribute 78% of new funds to high need districts--
including high need large cities, small cities, suburbs and rural districts.

"The Regents wisely prioritize the neediest students and school districts during these
most difficult fiscal times -- students who have gone the longest with the least should be
at the head of the class when it comes to prioritizing how New York State distributes
funding in a tight budget," said Easton.

The Regents propose $58 million in new Pre-K funding. In 2007 and 2008 New York
State increased Pre-K funding for the first time in seven years.

"The Regents are saying we must continue to expand Pre-K right now. Speaker Silver
and the Assembly have always championed Pre-K, we hope Governor Paterson's budget
will provide more four-year old access to Pre-K. It is among the most cost effective and
successful educational programs," said Easton.


Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >