Policy Recommendations for State Aid
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget proposals for education contain a number of positive new initiatives and provide an overall increase in funding that is slightly greater than last year’s (4.4% vs. 4.1%). Nevertheless, the executive budget does not recognize, let alone attempt to remedy, the extensive damage that has been inflicted on the educational opportunities of students throughout New York by chronic underfunding, including the severe cuts in educational funding since 2010, and the continuing impact of "gap elimination adjustments," caps on spending, and other unconstitutional budgetary actions that the state continues to impose on school districts.
In 2003, and again in 2006, the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, held in the CFE litigation that students in New York City were being denied constitutionally adequate services. In response, the legislature in 2007 revamped the state’s educational funding system and committed the state to increase funding substantially, not only for New York City but also for all underfunded high need districts in the state. Specifically, statewide, annual foundation aid for basic school operations was scheduled to increase by over $5 billion per year at the end of a four-year phase-in period. Although the state began to provide these increases, since the 2008 recession, the state has actually significantly reduced educational funding, and foundation aid now is barely above the 2007 level.
Years of budget cuts and rising costs, on top of a funding base that the courts had already deemed inadequate, have left many schools unable to provide their students with basic educational essentials, including many necessities that schools are mandated by the state to provide. We know the consequences of these opportunity gaps. Too many students are deprived of the learning opportunities they need to meet state learning standards, pass tests, and advance at grade level. Many drop out, and many who graduate are not college or career ready.
In the meantime, new state initiatives like the Common Core State Standards, Response to Intervention (RTI) procedures, the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), and the Dignity for All Students Act, as worthy as they may be, have been mandated without the resources needed to implement them. Limited budgets have forced schools to stretch inadequate resources to cover even more requirements, with the result that new initiatives are being implemented perfunctorily and ineffectively, if at all. And resources are being siphoned away from the basic educational necessities.