New York lawmakers have approved a state budget for 2018-19 that increases education funding by nearly $1 billion. The enacted state budget provides information about state aid levels to school districts as they finalize their own spending plans for the coming year.
The newly approved state budget calls for total education spending of $26.7 billion, which represents an increase of 3.9 percent.
The overall state aid increase includes $619 million in additional Foundation Aid and growth of $240 million in reimbursements for designated expenses such as transportation, construction and BOCES services. These two categories – Foundation Aid and expense-based reimbursements – are the predominant sources of state funding for everyday school operations.
The remainder of the new education funding will go toward a variety of targeted initiatives and grants, including the continued expansion of prekindergarten, afterschool programs and access to college-level courses in high-need areas.
The final state budget did not include caps on expense-based reimbursements, which had been put forward by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his executive budget plan released in January.
Total school aid also is higher than what Cuomo initially proposed, but falls short of the $1.5 billion increase, at least, that education advocates and the Board of Regents had identified as necessary for schools in 2018-19.
Reporting requirement focuses on school spending
The state budget contains a new requirement for districts to report information to the state about school building-level budget allocations for an upcoming school year. The requirement initially applies to about 76 districts, including those located in a city with a population of more than 1 million and those with at least four schools and 50 percent of total revenue coming from state aid. By 2020-21, the requirement expands to all districts across the state.
The budget language stipulates that school districts could have their state aid increases withheld in a given year until they are deemed to be in full compliance with the new reporting requirement.
Education groups have criticized the new reporting requirement as an unnecessary duplication of a similar measure under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and as having the potential to undermine local control of education. Cuomo has touted it as promoting greater transparency and equity in education spending.
New funds structured to benefit schools, taxpayers
In the final state budget, a provision now allows school districts to establish charitable funds to receive monetary donations. It also allows for a similar fund at the state level to support elementary and secondary education in public schools.
These funds are part of a broader effort by state lawmakers to cushion New Yorkers from the cap on the deductibility of state and local taxes that is now part of the federal tax law.
Funding for targeted education initiatives in state budget
The following are additional highlights of education spending and programs included in the newly enacted state budget:
- Community Schools: The Foundation Aid increase includes a $50 million set-aside for community schools, resulting in $200 million total for a range of programs and services in schools designated as struggling and in other high-need districts.
- Prekindergarten: The state budget includes an additional $15 million to serve more of the state’s three- and four-year-old children in prekindergarten programs.
- Afterschool Programs: An additional $10 million will expand the Empire State After School Grants program to more high-need communities, with a focus on school districts with high rates of childhood homelessness.
- Early College High Schools: An additional $9 million will help create 15 new early college high school programs across the state, with a focus on communities with low rates of graduation and college access. There also is funding to assist low-income students with Advanced Placement fees.
- School Meals: The state budget contains several new provisions designed to combat childhood hunger. For example, if at least 70 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, a district must provide breakfast for all students after the school day has started. This and other measures are designed to ensure that students who are unable to pay still have access to a regular school meal and are not singled out. There also is funding to provide greater school meal reimbursement rates for districts that use food from New York farmers and producers.
- Availability of Feminine Hygiene Products: A new mandate requires schools that serve grades 6-12 to provide feminine hygiene products in restrooms at no charge to students.