Cuomo Proposes 4 Percent School Aid Increase

BUFFALO, N.Y.—Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed spending $807 million more on schools in the next school year, with $100 million going toward expanding universal prekindergarten programs.

That’s a 3.8 percent spending increase over the current school year, but the governor’s critics say it’s not enough.

Cuomo also wants to put a $2 billion bond act before voters in November to upgrade technology in classrooms, promising to push to get voters to approve the borrowing.

“Overall, if you counted it all, it would be one of the largest investments in education that this state has made, and we’re proud of that,” the Democratic governor said Tuesday in outlining his budget proposal in Albany.

The $807 million funding increase includes $682 million in general school aid, while the rest is earmarked for pre-K, teacher merit pay, and an expansion of technical programming.

But the numbers disappointed education advocates who had been looking for well over $1 billion more in state aid to maintain current programs and avoid the kinds of staff and programming cuts that have been the norm in many districts over the past several years.

“While the governor’s budget contains many laudable issues such as state-funded universal prekindergarten and after-school programs, his state aid allocation falls way short of the mark,” said Timothy Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association.

The association is part of the Educational Conference Board, which last week estimated that districts would need an increase of at least $1.5 billion to maintain current programs. The state board of regents had recommended a $1.3 billion increase, while the Alliance for Quality Education had sought a $1.9 billion increase.

New York State United Teachers called the governor’s proposal “woefully inadequate.” The New York State Council of School Superintendents said the proposal wouldn’t help districts keep up with inflation and pension and health insurance costs.

Cuomo’s $137 billion budget contains about $22 billion for education.

Other Proposals

The governor also used Tuesday’s address to call for a review of the way New York has rolled out the new Common Core learning standards and proposed ending standardized testing for students in kindergarten through second grade.

Education Commissioner John King Jr. and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch acknowledged implementation of the Common Core “has not been perfect.”

“We remain fully committed to the Common Core,” a statement from King and Tisch said, “But we welcome constructive refinement to implementation to help meet that goal.”

Cuomo’s budget proposal includes $8 million to fund state college scholarships for the top 10 percent of high school graduates who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, or math and agree to work in New York for five years.

After-school programs would receive $720 million over five years, with the first installment of $160 million available in the 2015–16 school year.

A $15 million sum was set aside to plan for a new College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity, which would be part of the State University of New York system.