Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs (D-Flatbush) said the Assembly’s budget continues a strong commitment to education.
“The 2008-2009 Assembly budget proposal continues our strong commitment to educational excellence for the over 3 million school children in the state, providing an additional $1.7 billion over last year’s budget – $337 million more in school aid than proposed by the executive budget,” said Jacobs. “This year’s Assembly budget builds on and continues last year’s groundbreaking education plan to fulfill our promise to give all children a sound, basic education – our goal for over a decade.”
Meeting the commitment to CFE
The Assembly’s budget continues a commitment to the 4-year educational investment plan, which will increase state aid to schools by over $7 billion in 2010-2011. Jacobs said it increases the phase-in for school foundation aid to 38.5 percent, surpassing the executive’s 37.5 percent proposed increase, and getting New York a step closer to full implementation of foundation aid. The 1 percent change takes into account the state’s tight economic finances, while helping keep the state on track to meet the 2010-2011 funding goal.
“Our plan moves toward the full implementation of the school foundation formula, which calls for stable and transparent funding for school districts to deliver a quality education for our students by using resources to implement reform and achieve results,” Jacobs said.
“The Assembly’s budget reflects a second year of record school aid increases and continues our commitment to the tenets of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, statewide, placing the focus on high-need school districts,” Jacobs added. “It also rejects the executive’s budget recommendation to lower the minimum increase of state aid for school districts to 2 percent and instead reinstates the minimum to 3 percent, except for those low-wealth districts which are guaranteed a minimum of 4 percent. The Assembly helps ensure that no high-need school district falls behind and that all school districts have the tools they require for students to succeed.”
Making New York City commit to school funding
Mayor Bloomberg has ordered a $324 million cut from the Department of Education for the 2008-2009 budget.
“It's unconscionable that the Bloomberg administration would cut any funding from New York City schools,” Jacobs said. “After 12 years of lawsuits and victories in the courts – and years of the Assembly trying to move forward a fair funding mechanism for NYC schools – this is not the time for the Bloomberg administration to be back-sliding on education funding. Therefore, the Assembly in its budget is requiring the mayor and the city of New York to keep their $324 million commitment that they pledged last year to the children of New York City in the upcoming fiscal year. An entire generation of NYC school children has been lost to the dithering and dickering of obstructionists; we can’t afford to lose any more.”
Ms. Jacobs said the executive also wanted to find savings by proposing that building aid reimbursement to New York City schools be paid after an 18-month lag. The Assembly rejects that proposal and instead requires that New York City building aid estimates be more accurate, and that aid on those estimates will be paid in a timely manner. Additional claims will be paid in the following school year.
Continuing the Contracts for Excellence
“The Assembly continues the commitment to the Contracts for Excellence by annually evaluating a school district’s level of state aid and academic performance,” said Jacobs. “By retaining this important accountability provision, we can help ensure schools maintain a consistent and acceptable education standard.”
The Assembly accepts the executive’s proposal to include programs for students with limited English proficiency within the Contract for Excellence program options. School districts can then direct additional funding to replicate effective academic models to help these students succeed.
A new benchmark for investment in education
The executive provides a $1.4 billion increase for school aid. According to Jacobs, the Assembly increases that by $337 million to a total increase of $1.7 billion – the largest education investment in New York State history.
“This additional funding will help hold the line on property taxes while providing for our children’s education,” said Jacobs. “Providing every child with the education they need to succeed in the economy of the 21st century – especially those in high-need districts – is our most important priority.”
Staying committed to Universal Pre-K
Assistant Speaker Jacobs said the total Assembly budget allocation for Universal Pre-K would amount to $452 million, an increase of $97 million. This will expand the number of 4-year-old children attending pre-K from 93,000 to 121,000, bringing New York even closer to achieving Universal Pre-K.
“New York children should all get a chance to reap the lasting benefits of attending pre-K. Studies show again and again that pre-K gives our children an advantage in student achievement, college enrollment and future earnings,” emphasized Jacobs.
Special education evaluation
The executive’s budget also shifted $42 million in preschool special education evaluation costs to school districts, but according to Jacobs, the Assembly sees no rationale for that. The Assembly rejects placing the cost of this new mandate on the already overburdened school property taxpayers.
Ensuring school personnel background checks
The executive budget cut $500,000 from the Education Department’s Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability – which handles background checks for school personnel, Jacobs said.
“Because we want to keep our schools safe, we restored this cut and provided an additional $600,000 in funding for a total of $1.1 million over the executive budget,” Assemblywoman Jacobs said.
Increasing library funding
The executive budget included $14 million in additional funding for the New York State Public Library Construction Grant Program. The Assembly agrees the funds should be provided to upgrade facilities and buildings at public libraries statewide. But the executive budget cut $5 million out of Library Systems aid, funds the Assembly restores in its budget proposal.
Providing high-tax aid
The Assembly’s budget includes $100 million in additional school aid for high-cost school districts. Communities that are highly taxed but have comparatively lower wealth than neighboring districts would receive these funds to help ease their tax burden.
Restoring Adult Literacy Education funding
The state Adult Literacy Education program provides funding for adult education programs for undereducated and disadvantaged adults. Eligible agencies include not-for-profit agencies like community-based organizations, postsecondary institutions, and literacy volunteer agencies. According to Jacobs, the Assembly restored $1 million for this adult literacy program. In addition, the Assembly increased aid for the Employment Preparation Education Aid program by $4 million.
“Helping adults to read and write is the cornerstone to opening the world around them – a world of new possibilities,” said Ms. Jacobs.