Governor Cuomo’s Proposed Executive Budget for 2014-15
On January 21, Governor Cuomo presented his proposed state budget for 2014-2015. A summary of provisions related to K-12 education follows:
- School Aid – $21.88 billion was allocated for school aid; this amount constitutes an increase of $807 million (3.8 percent), with $608 million for formula-based school aid. Most of the allocated increase would be provided through a $323 million partial restoration of the Gap Elimination Adjustment. There would also be a $285 million increase for reimbursable expense-based aid programs such as school construction, pupil transportation, and BOCES. There would be no increase in Foundation Aid. High needs school districts will receive 70 percent of the formula-based increase.
- Property Tax Freeze – The Executive Budget freezes, for two years, the property tax bills of homeowners in school districts that stay within the property tax cap. In the second year, such school districts will also have to agree to and implement a multi-year regional plan of shared services and administrative consolidation that produces recurring property tax savings.
- Smart Schools – Contingent on a November bond referendum, $2 billion would be allocated to schools, based on the school aid formula, upon approval of each school district’s Smart Schools Investment Plan by the Smart Schools Review Board. The program is designed to enhance classroom technology and improvements needed for full-day, pre-kindergarten and after school student support. Such funding may not be used for technology that is leased.
- Universal Full-Day Pre-Kindergarten – $100 million would be allocated in year one, of a five-year program totaling $1.5 billion. Following the governor’s presentation, the state deputy secretary for education, Ian Rosenblum, indicated that such funding may not supplant local funding.
- After-School Programs – $720 million would be allocated over a five-year period; approximately $160 million would be available in 2015-2016, growing to $200 million in 2017-2018. The program is intended to add or expand after-school programs to provide enrichment opportunities for students.
- Teacher Excellence Fund – $20 million would be allocated to reward teachers rated “highly effective.” Deputy Secretary Rosenblum indicated that teachers in all school districts would be eligible for such supplemental compensation, but school principals would not be eligible.
- P-TECH Expansion – $5 million would be allocated to expand to Pathways in Technology and Early College High School program for students in “grades 9 to 14.” The program focuses on proficiencies needed for STEM careers, with participating students receiving both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree at no cost.
- School District Reorganizations – When two or more school districts propose to reorganize, the participating boards of education may opt to have to have the impact deferred for a one-year period and/or phased-in over a period not to exceed 10 years. A common phase-in period must be adopted across all participating school districts.
- Preschool Special Education – The Executive Budget proposes to reduce preschool special education costs by limiting payment for Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) services based on services “actually provided” and by establishing regional reimbursement rates.
- BOCES Services to the Office of Children and Family Services – Section 1950 would be amended with the phrase “and any other programs” to expand the services for which OCFS may contract with BOCES.
- Common Core Panel – The governor proposes to establish a panel of national education experts and legislators to examine and make recommendations regarding all aspects that must be addressed for successful implementation of the common core. Deputy Secretary Rosenblum has indicated that no names have as yet been posited for panel membership and no timeline has been specified for the panel’s work.
- K-2 Student Standardized Test Ban – The governor proposes a ban on standardized testing for students in kindergarten through second grade.
- Waivers for Certain Duties – The Executive Budget includes a new section 4403-a, authorizing school districts and BOCES to submit a waiver “from any requirement” imposed in Sections 4402 and 4403 (Special Schools and Instruction Children with Handicapping Conditions) and corresponding regulations. The purpose of the waiver is to provide an innovative special education program that is consistent with federal requirements and enhances student achievement and/or regular education opportunities.
- Dignity for All Students Act – Education Law would be amended to require that the investigation undertaken in regard to a report of alleged harassment, bullying, and discrimination include a determination as to whether each verified incident is part of a pattern (i.e., multiple incidents) of harassment. The principal or superintendent must “promptly” report a pattern of harassment to the commissioner of education, the Division of Human Rights, and the Division of State Police. In any instance where the school principal or superintendent fails to complete such duties in regard to a pattern of harassment that is known or that should be known, that commissioner “shall initiate a removal proceeding” pursuant to Section 306 of Education Law. (In such instances, a principal shall be deemed a school officer.) According to Deputy Secretary Rosenblum, these amendments would not apply to charter schools.
- Age of Criminal Responsibility – The governor proposes to allocate $250,000 for expert services in connection with raising the age at which youths are treated as adults to 18 years of age. The current age is 16 years of age.
- Stemming Recidivism – The governor proposes to allocate $250,000 for to support the work of a Re-Entry Council to stop the “revolving door” into the criminal justice system.