The 2016-2017 State Budget
Though the governor and legislative leaders announced agreement of a 2016-2017 budget the night of March 31, passage of the budget did not occur until today, April 1. Governor Cuomo described the budget as “the best we have produced in decades.” A summary of important educational provisions follows:
School Operating Aid is set at $24.8 billion, an increase of $1.5 billion (6.5 percent). The full $434 million needed to eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) has been allocated, and a $627 million increase (4%) is in place for Foundation Aid. The approved budget amounts fall short of the increases recommended by many educational organizations and the State Education Department, and increases reflected in the Senate and Assembly one-house bills, ranging from $2.2 billion to $2.5 billion. However, the final levels constitute a significant increase over the overall $991 million increase proposed in the governor’s executive budget, including $189 million for Gap Elimination Adjustment reduction, and $266 million for Foundation Aid. State aid budget runs may be accessed at: http://wallaby.telicon.com/NY/library/2016/20160401ZZ.PDF
Community Schools received an additional $75 million allocation for expansion in high needs school districts, for a total allocation of $175 million. The budget bill includes “community schools aid set-asides” in the foundation aid allocations for 225 schools districts.
Education Tax Credits are not included in the final budget. The governor’s proposed executive budget included four tax credit programs. It is possible, however, that one or more of the four tax credit programs included in the governor’s proposed executive budget will be reintroduced later during the current legislative session.
Charter Schools will receive $54 million for an increased per student allocation of $430. This constitutes a 3 percent increase over the current per student allocation of $14,027. Measures to withhold funding from charter schools that “cream students” (e.g., enrolling low percentages of high-needs students) are not included in the budget.
Delinking Increased State Aid and the APPR September 1, 2016 due date by which school districts are required to transition to §3012-d compliant APPR systems was not implemented in the enacted state budget.
The governor advanced the idea of Reinstating Priority School and Receivership Status to approximately 70 schools that met their performance targets, but such action was rebuffed by the legislature late in the budget negotiations. The Education Conference Board, including SAANYS, strongly advocated against the governor’s proposal, which would have been inconsistent with the statute enacted as part of last year’s budget bill. In the end, no changes in this regard are included in the 2016 budget bill.
School Safety Plan Requirements (§2801-a), for school districts having only one school building now authorize the commissioner of education to develop an appeals process from duplicative requirements of a district-wide school safety plan. For all school districts, the district must certify to the commissioner of education that all staff has completed annual training on the emergency response plan. The building level emergency response plan shall be kept confidential; and the district emergency officer (superintendent or designee) is responsible for ensuring staff understand the district-level safety plan, for communicating between school staff and first responders, and for annually updating the building-level emergency response plans.
Fire and Emergency Drill requirements have been revised. At least 12 drills must occur between September 1 and December 31. Eight of such drills must be evacuation drills, four drills must be lock-down drills.
The State Education Department is allocated $8.4 million to create and print more versions of state assessments and to release “a significant amount” of test questions; $1 million is allocated for professional development of teachers and principals to help improve the quality of instruction; and $2 million is allocated for My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative for improving outcomes for boys and young men of color.