Mon, Feb 4, 2008
CFE Urges State Officials to Restore Funds to Meet 2008 School Aid Obligation
Legislated Education Funding Commitment Must be Off-Limits to Cuts and Delays
The Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. (CFE) today called on State officials to fully fund 2008-2009 school operating aid commitment, the second installment of the four year phase-in legislated last year in the State Education Budget and Reform Act.
In testimony presented to the State Senate Finance Committee and the State Assembly Ways and Means Committee, CFE urged the legislature to provide $1.25 billion in foundation aid, classroom operating aid, restoring $350 million to the proposed executive budget. CFE also urged the legislature to fine tune the school foundation aid formula to ensure predictability in funding for the most vulnerable students, to reject the proposal lowering the cap on maximum school aid increases from 25% to 15%, and ensure that all new school foundation aid and operating funds must be tied to the Contract for Excellence, the lawâ€™s accountability and transparency tool.
â€śThe public school students of New York have already waited 14 years for adequate resources to fund their constitutional right to a sound basic education, and have paid with their futures. Despite economic pressures, the school aid budget commitments made last year must be off limits. No delays or cuts are tolerable,â€ť said Helaine K. Doran, Deputy Director of CFE, during her testimony.
Enacted in April 2007, the State Education Budget and Reform Act made a $7 billion commitment in additional school funding over the next four years, $5.5 billion in foundation aid. The law that resulted from final ruling in the landmark CFE lawsuit instituted a predictable formula based on need to ensure that the money is distributed to serve students and not politicians. It also established the Contract for Excellence, an annual plan that low-performing school districts that receive increased funding must develop with participation from parents and the public, stating how the money will be spent and what it will accomplish.
For 2008 (year two in the four year Contract plan) the formula committed $1.25 billion but the recently proposed State Executive Budget would cut $350 million, for a $900 million total. This would reduce the annual phase-in increase to only 17.5%, from the committed 22.5%, throwing-off the legislated timetable. Foundation aid in New York City would be reduced from $528 million to $335 million.
â€śThis translates into fewer teachers, larger class sizes, less investment in strategies from middle school reform to after school programs that make the difference in academic achievement for our students,â€ť said Doran.
Doran pointed out anomalies in implementation of the State Education Budget and Reform Act, which must be corrected immediately. The funding formula, a step in the right direction, must be fine tuned to correct for over sensitivity year-to-year fluctuations in property values and student enrollment. As a result districts such as Auburn, Brentwood, Ilion, Jamestown, Middletown, New York City, Newburgh, Syracuse, and William Floyd, among others, will see disproportionately large reductions in school aid.
â€śAdjustments should be made to ensure that erratic economic changes do not derail the use of a simplified non-politicized means to drive predictable, reliable education dollars to our highest-need low-performing schools and students,â€ť Doran cautioned.
To better strategic investment, measurable results and public input, all operating aid restorations should be treated as foundation aid subject to the Contract, Doran argued. The cap on foundation aid increases must remain at 25%, not 15% as the executive budget proposes. Changes in the economy have not changed the level of need in certain school districts, nor their ability to absorb the cost of providing a sound basic education.
In addition, CFE supports the Governorâ€™s proposal to expand the allowable spending areas within the Contract to include programs for English Language Learners, as well as support for the Governorâ€™s proposal to treat each districtâ€™s annual Contract proposal as an update of the previous yearâ€™s investments.
CFE also asked the Governor and the Legislature to use their power to reverse a policy undertaken by Monroe County, which upon receiving new foundation aid funds cut a stream of sales tax revenue that went to schools. The law states that CFE funding increases are provided to raise the quality of education, and are intended to add to â€“ not supplant- local school budgets.
To read Helaine K. Doranâ€™s entire testimony visit 126.96.36.199.
Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
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 stateâ€™s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >