“Education is the number-one priority of state and local government,” said State Senator John Liu at a press conference at the Whitestone Library last week. “Education funding is always the biggest part of the budget.”
In the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit, a judge found that the state shortchanged funding for education by $4 billion.
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Board of Regents recently called on the governor to add $1.66 billion in Foundation Aid over the next three years to reach the court-mandated $4 billion.
Foundation Aid is money that is given to principals to spend in their schools as they see fit.
Elia and the board also called on the governor to increase general education funding by approximately $500 million, requesting a total increase in this year’s budget of $2.1 billion.
But the governor’s proposed budget increases education funding by only $956 million, of which only $338 million is Foundation Aid.
“That is a paltry amount,” said Liu. “The executive budget is woefully inadequate according to the commissioner herself.”
Furthermore, the governor’s Division of Budget has determined how the Foundation Aid will be allocated to which schools, rather than relying on individual school districts to make that determination.
Lawmakers argue that means most New York City schools will not receive any additional funding, including nearly every school in northeast Queens.
“That is unnecessary micromanaging, and I would say interfering, with how the Department of Education handles its affairs,” said Liu. “It should be up to the chancellor which schools this money goes to.”
In his State of the State address, Cuomo said the money was going to go to the neediest schools in the state.
“From a public relations point, it sound good,” said Liu. “But DOE knows what schools need the money the most.”
Assemblyman Dan Rosenthal said it would be unreasonable to expect the state to comply with the CFE lawsuit in one budget cycle, but said more needs to be done to ensure the state is working to meet its obligations.
“I completely understand that adding $4 billion in the budget in one year is a big ask,” he said, “but we need a longterm plan and a tangible solution.”