Most people may look at $200 million and think that’s a lot of money. But it’s a relative drop in the bucket compared to the billions of dollars in state aid public schools receive each year.
Still, state Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, called an agreement to restore $200 million in school aid to next year’s state budget a victory in financial landscape that seems to be getting more difficult for schools.
“State aid is going to be roughly the same,” Paulin said. “But I think many school districts are happy that they’re not seeing a decrease in state aid or a change in the formula that could result in a decrease.”
The $132.6 billion state budget agreement reached between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the state Legislature Tuesday includes about $20.4 billion for school aid, including performance grants to reward academic improvement and school district efficiencies. The agreement marked the second year in row that lawmakers passed a budget on time.
Part of that agreement included the allocation of $200 million that Gov. Cuomo originally earmarked to be part of $250 million package of competitive grants that public schools needed to apply for.
Billy Easton, Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education, was happy that the $200 million was restored to school aid, but he said that the money fell short of helping school districts meet the financial challenges that lie ahead.
“It is a welcome step that will protect vital programs in our schools, but this year's budget is inadequate in comparison to yet another round of classroom cuts that are expected in local schools as a result of the policies in Albany,” Easton said in a statement. “We thank both houses of the Legislature on a bi-partisan basis for putting these funds back into the classrooms. We ask that the Governor and the Legislature pay close attention to local school budgets in the coming months and recognize that Albany needs to change direction and get it right because our students are paying the price."
Paulin said she expected to have a list of state aid allocations to school districts before state officials vote on the budget this week.
Paulin said she is also pleased that the state Legislature was able to restore funding to early intervention services for children with special needs and special education for pre-school children.
“There’s a portion of the services for special needs children ages 3 to 5 that the county and the state pays for,” Paulin said. “There was a proposal to change the reimbursement for those services and make the school districts pay for it. Lets say you had had child with enormous range a special needs. That one child could cost a district a lot of money.”
Paulin said she is also happy to see additional funding for programs that serve sexually exploited youth.
State lawmakers have a deadline of midnight Saturday to pass the budget on time and give municpalities and school districts enough time to plan their budgets.