NY Budget's Constitutional Scorecard: Insufficient Progress Toward Providing Sound Basic Education
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Published: 4/8/2013 3:59:00 PM
The legislature has now enacted and the governor has signed into law the 2013-14 state budget. The good news is that this is the best education budget in five years: It provides over $1 billion in new state aid for education and an average 4.7% increase in core foundation aid for school districts. Moreover, the budget breaches the statutory cap that limited increases in state aid to the percentage growth in personal income for the previous year—a device that we have repeatedly insisted is unconstitutional—and exceeds it by over $300 million. As the Citizens Budget Commission put it, “The cap is now broken…[and] this school aid genie is likely to be hard to cram back in the bottle.“
The bad news is that state funding for education is still unconstitutional. The additional funding may repair some of the extensive damage inflicted on the educational opportunities of students throughout New York State by chronic underfunding since 2009; however, even with the new funding, total foundation funding is still more than $4 billion below the amount the state legislature determined, in the wake of the Court of Appeals decision in CFE v. State of New York, was necessary to provide all students the opportunity for a “sound basic education.” And a $1.64 billion “gap elimination adjustment” is still in place—an acknowledgment that students’ needs have been set aside because the state is not prepared to appropriate the necessary funds. Moreover, proper implementation of the Common Core standards, the Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR), and other state mandates will put additional financial pressure on schools and school districts; at the same time, the maintenance of a cap on the tax revenues that most local school districts can raise will limit their ability to respond to these pressures.
Despite this one-year, partial reprieve, the fundamental problems created by years of budget cuts, continuing escalations of health, pension, and other costs, and a virtual depletion of reserve funds in many districts still remain. Many schools, particularly those serving large numbers of students from low-income households, will still be unable to provide their students with educational essentials, including many necessities that schools are mandated by the state to provide.