New York Daily News
Deal is expected to send big bucks to city schools
A state budget agreement that coalesced Tuesday includes a long-awaited windfall for New York City schools that could pad the city education budget by more than $1 billion annually by 2023.
Legislative budget documents released Tuesday include an agreement to fully fund the state’s court-mandated “Foundation Aid” formula for distributing money to school districts based on need.
State education funding currently falls about $4 billion short of the amount the formula calls for — a shortfall that advocates and lawmakers have been fighting to reverse for more than a decade.
The budget agreement will phase in the additional funding over three years, with state foundation aid spending likely to increase by roughly $1.4 billion each of the next three years.
When the additional funds are fully phased in, the city’s education budget could grow by more than $1 billion a year by 2023, advocates and analysts say.
“Today, the children of our state won a crucial victory as New York State made a historic commitment to fully fund Foundation Aid for our public schools,” said Jasmine Gripper, the executive director of the advocacy group Alliance for a Quality Education.
The state created the Foundation Aid formula in 2007 on the heels of the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, in which a judge ordered state officials to revamp and boost school funding to ensure students receive the education to which they’re entitled under state law.
The formula is designed to send more money to districts with needier students, but state officials slashed schools spending across the board when the Great Recession hit in 2008, and never brought it back up to the levels recommended by the formula.
State Sen. Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan), who was a plaintiff in the original Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, called it “a historic day.”
“After three decades, I can finally say that we walk the walk and won for our children!” he added.
New York City, the largest district in the state and country, receives about $1.1 billion less than it’s owed under the state formula each year. As a result, the city has never fully funded its own “Fair Student Funding” formula, the mechanism through which city schools get money for teachers, staff and operating expenses — with more money funneled to schools with needier students.
A 2018 analysis from the city’s Independent Budget Office found that roughly 80% of city schools got less Fair Student Funding than they were entitled to. City officials have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to shore up financing for the schools with the biggest budget shortfalls, but the city is still about $750 million shy of funding every school at 100%, according to the group Advocates for Children.
With Tuesday’s state budget announcement, that could begin to change.
Advocates say they hope the city makes a commitment to boost Fair Student Funding to 100% for every school in the city. Gripper said she hopes the city also uses the money to reduce class sizes, one of the original goals of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity suit.
The boost to state foundation aid funding isn’t the only good news for city public schools.
The budget agreement also appears to reverse a plan to divert $700 million in federal funds from last December’s bill meant for city schools to plug a hole of the same size in state aid, budget watchers say.
That’s in addition to the more than $4 billion projected to flow to city schools from the March stimulus package.
Randi Levine, the policy director of Advocates for Children, said that with the influx of state and federal cash, the city should “fund a major education initiative” that includes academic support and mental health support with extra attention to students hit hardest by the pandemic.