March 30, 2009

Assembly Hails $21.9 Billion For New York's Schools, Including $376 Million For Pre-K

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Ways and Means Chair Herman D. Farrell, Jr., and Education Committee Chair Catherine Nolan announced that the 2009-2010 state budget continues the Assembly's commitment to provide a solid education for New York State's children despite tough economic times. The budget stabilizes aid to schools by restoring $1.1 billion to school districts and provides $376 million for universal pre-kindergarten.

"While we recognize the fiscal crisis affecting our state and our country, it is crucial that we not lose sight of the critical role education plays in the economic viability of our state. The Assembly Majority has ensured that the improvements made in the education of our children in recent years will not be eroded during this economic downturn, and we continue to seek the very best for our students through varied educational opportunities and experiences," said Silver (D-Manhattan).

"The 2009-10 state budget could have been a disaster for schools, students and taxpayers, but by utilizing federal stimulus funds to fill the hole in school funding, we are able to keep our children on the path to a sound education," said Nolan (D-Queens). "Even during the worst economic downturn in decades, we must maintain our strong commitment to educating our children and providing them with the tools and skills they will need to compete successfully for the jobs of the 21st century."

"This budget continues our commitment to education across the state," said Farrell (D-Manhattan). "We must ensure all school districts have the aid they need and guarantee that no school children fall behind during this economic downturn."

The budget lifts the Governor's freeze on reimbursable expense-based aid including transportation, building aid and BOCES - ensuring schools have access to the funds they need. Overall, schools will benefit by an estimated increase of $403 million in these aids over the 2008-09 school year. Foundation aid for the 2009-2010 school year will remain at current levels. The Assembly continues its commitment to foundation aid by phasing in full funding over three years, a year earlier than the executive's proposal, starting in 2011-12.

The Assembly has been on the forefront of fighting for the continuation and growth of the universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) program to ensure that every 4-year-old in the state has the opportunity to get a head start in school, and continues the program with $376 million in this budget.

To provide teachers with the resources they need to succeed and become the very best teachers they can, the budget fully restores executive cuts to teacher resource and computer training centers. These centers which provide systematic, ongoing professional education services to the state's teachers and have been allocated $40 million for the 2009-10 school year. In addition, the budget restores $2 million to the teacher mentor intern program, a program that enables experienced teachers in a district to provide guidance and support to beginning teachers.

The budget will continue the Contract for Excellence program for the 2009-10 school year. School districts that are required to prepare a Contract for Excellence will maintain the same level of funding as last year, ensuring that schools will not have to cut allowable programs including class size reduction, academic after-school programs and full-day kindergarten or pre-kindergarten.

In addition, the budget creates new reporting requirements for New York City regarding its Five-Year Class Size Reduction Plan to include detailed information by school on: In addition, the budget restores: The budget continues Bilingual Education at $12.5 million; rejects language that would modify rate setting methodology for itinerant teachers - special education professionals - in the preschool education program; rejects the elimination of the Science, Math and Bilingual set-aside within the Teachers of Tomorrow program; and rejects review of the current allocation methodology for funds among public broadcast stations. The budget also expands the definition of aidable software to include video, audio, images and teacher guides - providing teachers more resources for the classroom.

The budget helps school districts by freezing the tuition rate public schools have to pay charter schools in the 2009-10 school year to the rates they paid last year. The budget also agrees to maintain the executive's proposal to continue high tax aid funds at last year's level. Additionally, the budget restores $30 million in funding for non-public schools.

During this economic crisis, the federal government has provided funds to help stabilize state and local government budgets in order to minimize and avoid reductions in education. The budget uses the following federal funds to help local school districts over the next two years: