Representing New York State’s school administrators, SAANYS was invited to deliver testimony before the Senate Finance Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee on February 14 regarding the 2017-18 Executive Budget. Read that full testimony here. Below is a summary of that testimony.
At a Glance: SAANYS Position on the Governor’s Proposed Budget
- Requested an additional $1.0 million in funding OVER the proposed amount-total needed is $2.1 billion increase over last year’s allocations to district.
- Reinstate use of Foundation Formula for calculating school aid
- Fixed property cap at 2-3 percent or make it the GREATER of the 2 percent cap or CPI
- Increased aid for English language learners (ELL) and Multi-Language Learners(MLL)
- Increased aid for Career and Technical Education-increase $3,900 per pupil special services cap and allowable BOCES salary for reimbursement
- Requested $30 million for school leader professional development
On February 14, 2017, the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means Committees held a joint session to hear testimony on the governor’s proposed education budget. In addition to Commissioner of Education Elia and Chancellor Farina of the Department of Education for NYC, many associations presented testimony on behalf of their respective membership. The following is a summary of SAANYS’ written testimony:
Total State Aid Allocation
The governor’s proposed budget falls short of projected costs needed by districts to maintain current programs and services as projected. SAANYS is a member of the Educational Conference Board (ECB) which estimates that district costs will rise by $1.7 billion or about 2.6 percent. A request for an additional $1 billion, over the amount proposed by the governor, is needed to ensure that districts can maintain current levels of programming.
- 2.75 percent increase in salaries.
- 6.7 percent increase in health insurance costs.
- Reduction in pension costs per TRS rates.
- 2.2 percent increase in non-personnel costs.
- 1.26 percent increase in local revenues per tax cap.
A second objection to the proposed budget is that included within the proposed increase in state is a set aside for community schools. As not all schools are targeted to receive such funding, the actual increase in the proposed budget is approximately $718 million. This amount is less than half of what SAANYS and other associations comprising the ECB project to be needed by school districts.
The proposed budget removes the use of the foundation formula developed following the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) court case. That formula provided a stable way to develop district allocations and drive the greatest amount of aid to districts most in need. Abandoning the foundation formula, would mean that future state aid to school districts will be based on 2017-18 allocation with one time increases as determined by the governor. SAANYS strongly opposes the repeal of the foundation aid and supports a commitment to a three-year phase-in of the current formula. It is essential that school leaders have a stable fiscal structure so that they can adequately prepare for needed programming and services.
Property Tax Cap
The 2 percent tax cap has not been 2 percent for the last four years (see graph below). This year’s cap is set at 1.26 percent. The property tax cap is based on the lower of 2 percent or the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI is based on the average cost of items such as food, clothing, shelter, fuel, transportation fares, and charges for doctor and dentist services, and many other costs that are bundled together to provide an average percent.
SAANYS recommended that the property tax cap be set at 2 percent or the greater of 2 percent of the CPI. Reinstating the foundation formula and a setting the tax cap will increase stability in terms of being able to predict future state operating aid operating.
SAANYS advocated for the following priority areas, should funding be increased:
English Language Learners
On average, districts in New York saw a 22 percent increase in English Language Learners (ELL) or Multi Language Learners (MLL). Many of our colleagues on Long Island and other pockets of our state have seen percentages well above the 22 percent average. Meeting the needs of English language learners requires additional staff, academic supports, assessment modifications, and other support services. SAANYS recommended the following:
- Restart the foundation aid phase-in.
- Adjust upward the ELL/MLL weighting to accommodate needs going forward.
- Short term targeted funding streams in order to account for increased costs that districts have been shouldering over the past few years.
- Support the Board of Regent’s proposals for increased funding for translation of all required assessments in the eight most common home languages of ELL/MLL students. Additionally, SAANYS would support budgetary requests for test development and resumption of LOTE examinations to be used in the Pathway 4+1 option for LOTE.
Career and Technical Education
Access to career and technical education is an important path for many students. Over 93 percent of students enrolled in schools with CTE programs graduate from high school, while the graduation rate for all students is approximately 79 percent. Therefore SAANYS recommended:
- Increased state aid to the recommended $2 billion level, which will allow schools to more adequately provide career and technical programs.
- Increase the $3,900 per pupil cap on the special services aid for the Big 5 and other non-component school districts.
- Increase the portion of BOCES salaries that qualify for reimbursement from the 1990 level of $30,000.
While SAANYS is supportive of community school funding, we are cautious that proposed funding is a set aside within foundation aid allocations. SAANYS recommended that all previous aid be released to districts owed previously allocated community schools funding, and that the foundation aid be distributed in a fair and balanced approach.
The governor has proposed a $5 million increase for pre-kindergarten, as well as a process for merging the current seven funding streams that support various versions of pre-kindergarten programs. SAANYS concurs with the goal of blending the programs but also recommend that:
- Districts be ensured that no allocation would be decreased in the process of merging funding streams.
- The timeframe for merging be expedited. As proposed, the process would extend to 2021 which is unnecessary. The field does not need to wait until some programs expire due to artificially applied expiration dates. The same concepts used to blend one program, could be used to blend all seven.
SAANYS also proposed that kindergarten be a required component of the pre-k through 12 public school system. Kindergarten was first established in New York City in 1890 and every district in the state provides kindergarten programs. It is important that as pre-kindergarten becomes fully accessible, kindergarten be a required component. It would be difficult to have a robust pre-kindergarten program, without the continuity and assuredness of having kindergarten firmly in place.
School Leader Professional Development
Funding for professional development of practicing school leaders is essential. The scope of responsibilities and needed areas of expertise demanded of school leaders has grown exponentially. School leaders need the most current thinking on best practices, effective management processes, and models for school improvement. Professional development is essential for on the job effectiveness and the retention of excellent school leaders.
On your behalf, SAANYS requested that both the senate and assembly support an education budget that provides stability, sustainability, and support. Educators across the state need a firm and stable foundation on which to make improvements and anticipate student needs. When the fiscal foundation is undermined, educators have fewer and weaker tools on which to build a solid structure. Our school leaders need to rely on the state policymakers to provide them with the fiscal resources to implement programs that we have made priorities.