Last year, New York State enacted a budget that raised funding for public school districts to $23.5 billion – the highest level in state history. That money supported almost 700 school districts, and 2.8 million students in grades pre-kindergarten through twelve. New York State currently spends more per pupil than any state in the nation, at an average of $19,818, almost double the national average of $10,700.
This year, the Governor proposes to once again significantly increase the State’s investment in public schools. His Executive Budget increases school aid by $2.1 billion over the next two school years, including a $991 million (4.3 percent) increase for the 2016-17 school year. This will bring total aid to $24.2 billion in SY 2017. The Governor’s proposal will provide operating aid increases to every school district in the state, and will once again move State-wide education support to record levels.
The Governor will invest $100 million to support the transformation of failing schools and other high needs schools into community schools so that issues of poverty can be addressed with communities working together to ensure that every student is prepared, safe, healthy and ready to learn. This investment is critical to providing students early opportunities to build positive future and breaking the trend of higher crime rates among underserved youth.
There are currently nearly 120,000 students served in the State’s prekindergarten programs, many in full-day spots. The Governor invested an additional $30 million last year to support pre-kindergarten for 3,000 additional three year or four year olds in high-need districts. The Governor proposes an additional $22 million investment in pre-kindergarten for three year olds that will support the provision of early childhood education to an additional 2,000-2,500 three year old students and ensure that these children will have even earlier access to high-quality instruction during the critical brain and language development years, along with opportunities to build confidence and social skills through activity and play And the Governor proposes an additional $2 million investment to ensure pre-k programs are high quality.
In 2011, Governor Cuomo established the NYSUNY 2020 and NYCUNY 2020 program to keep tuition increases low and predictable while providing $470 million in additional resources to New York’s public colleges and universities. NYSUNY 2020 and NYCUNY 2020 fixed an unpredictable tuition rollercoaster that prevented students and their families from being able to plan for the full cost of their education and ended the days of drastic tuition spikes upward of 45 percent. After five years of predictable tuition, New York’s public four-year resident rates remain the lowest in the northeast and in the lowest quartile nationally.
In addition to providing students and their families with predictable tuition increases, since 2011 this program has also provided $470 million in new capital matching grant funding through Empire State Development for the public-private NYSUNY 2020 and NYCUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program that links the higher education system to economic development. The program incentivizes bottom-up, individualized, long-term economic development plans on SUNY and CUNY campuses that include public-private partnerships to benefit the campuses and surrounding communities. Projects must demonstrate measureable impact on both the academic experience of students and lasting economic impact through workforce development and research activities with the potential to lead to commercialization.
To keep tuition low and predictable and infuse additional funds into our SUNY and CUNY systems, the Governor proposes extending the 2011 legislation for an additional five years. Under this rational tuition proposal, SUNY and CUNY will be able to raise tuition up to $300 annually, provided they are able to demonstrate considerable efforts to reduce spending and that any increase is tied to appropriate inflationary indices. Additional revenue generated by any tuition increase would need to be put in a “lockbox” to support faculty, improve instruction and provide tuition credits for TAP-eligible students. A $300 annual tuition increase would raise $89 million annually for SUNY and $51 million for CUNY. This program will continue to provide $110 million in new capital matching grant funding through Empire State Development for the NYSUNY 2020 and NYCUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program and will be coupled with an additional projected increase of $400 million in state funding over the next five years.
New York City has had mayoral control over its public school system since 2002; the authority is currently set to expire in 2016. Governor Cuomo supports a three-year extension of New York City mayoral control this year. In addition, Governor Cuomo encourages mayors of other cities across the state to examine whether mayoral control of schools would help to support and enhance student achievement.
Governor Cuomo’s proposed $2.1 billion school aid increase will also allow the State to eliminate the outstanding $434 million Gap Elimination Adjustment over two years, as well as provide an operating increase to every school district in the state. The GEA was first enacted in 2009 in order to combat the drastic world-wide financial recession. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the State has been diligently working to restore the GEA for every school district affected. The Governor proposes that over the next two years, the GEA will be entirely eliminated once and for all. This two-year plan to eliminate the GEA allows school districts a predictable revenue stream to enhance long-term financial planning and support responsible budget practices.
Responding to the confusion and chaos related to past implementation of the Common Core, Governor Cuomo appointed a 15-member Task Force to review state standards, curriculum, and assessments. In December 2015, the Task Force issued a 50-plus page report and 21 recommendations based on feedback received from parents, teachers, students, and other education experts across 12 public engagement sessions, as well as on over 2,000 comments and conversations with stakeholders. After careful review, the Governor accepts all 21 recommendations of the Common Core Task Force report.
The Task Force proposed dramatic reforms including reduced testing, increased parental participation and empowered local districts. These reforms were essential because we saw parents losing faith in the system. Roughly 20% of students opted out of exams and in some districts it was as much as 90%. Simply put, the education system fails without parental trust. To restore the trust we said we would correct the State Education Department’s Common Core curriculum implementation mistakes and testing regimen. Time has shown that this is the right decision and the Governor urges the State Education Department to do it right this time and is fully available to assist in and monitor that effort.
Governor Cuomo has long supported initiatives designed to attract and retain excellent teachers in New York schools. Teachers work hard and support their students, and the State should encourage and support these teachers. In order to give back to teachers who purchase instructional materials or other supplies for their classrooms, the Governor proposes $10 million in tax credits to reimburse teachers up to $200 for their purchases of classroom materials and supplies.