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New York State voters approved 99.4 percent of school district budgets on Tuesday, May 16, according to an analysis by the New York State School Boards Association.
"This year, many school boards overcame rising costs in order to deliver budgets that stayed within the state's property tax cap," said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. "Smart budgeting, community input and an increase in state education funding helped districts win strong voter support. Some districts were even able to restore positions lost during leaner budgeting years."
After nearly a year working as a part of the ESSA think tank, NYSSBA is pleased to have a full draft of the state plan for review.
Now that the ideas and input of the think tank and stakeholders have been compiled, we must consider the specific proposals advanced by the department, and whether districts have the authority and resources to implement what is proposed.
The average proposed school district tax levy increase in 2017-18 will be 1.48 percent, more than half a percentage point below the acclaimed "2 percent" property tax cap, according to a NYSSBA analysis of school district property tax and budget data from the State Education Department.
This will be the fourth consecutive year the tax cap growth factor will be below 2 percent.
We are encouraged by the State Education Department's more collaborative and inclusive process for the adoption of new learning standards for public schools, in contrast to the adoption of Common Core standards in 2011.
The department has consulted with school board members, parents, teachers, subject matter experts, and others in an attempt to craft age-appropriate standards and obtain buy-in from stakeholders.
We look forward to reviewing the standards and submitting comments on behalf of school board members.
The practice of "restorative justice" has emerged as an option to help schools improve their climate and consider ways to reduce student suspensions, according to a new research report entitled "Rethinking School Discipline," by the New York State School Boards Association.
Under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act, states may include school climate or elements of school climate -- such as suspension rates, absenteeism and school safety -- among the "school quality indicators" they would monitor and use to help schools improve.
Seneca Falls School Board Member Heather Zellers is the 2017 recipient of the New York State School Boards Association Champion for Change Award.
The Champion for Change Award is presented annually to a current school board member who, in the judgment of the NYSSBA Awards Committee, should be recognized for innovative and ethical leadership that has brought about ground-breaking improvements in school district programs and operations.
"This year, NYSSBA is recognizing an innovative and effective first-term elected school board member and Zellers fulfills this criteria with her dedication and leadership in education," said NYSSBA President Susan Bergtraum.
Schools can rest a little easier today knowing what their state aid allocation will be for the 2017-18 school year.
Without a state spending plan in place, school boards would have had no choice but to guess how much state aid they would receive next year – a risky budgeting strategy when the education of New York’s 2.6 million public school students is at stake.
We thank lawmakers for taking action to ensure that schools know their state aid allotment before they put their 2017-18 budgets up to voters in May. School boards now have the information they need to finalize their budgets and present them to the community.
Moreover, school boards achieved a number of victories in the state budget. Lawmakers rejected a proposal to repeal the Foundation Aid formula and began consolidating prekindergarten funding programs.
While the $700 million increase in foundation aid falls short of our $1.4 billion request, this additional funding will be distributed in a way that drives more resources toward districts with enrollment growth, higher levels of poverty and a greater number of English language learners, as NYSSBA recommended.
School districts with a significant number of charter schools will feel the sting of an additional $500 per pupil in charter school tuition. Even though this funding will be reimbursed by the state, it will have an immediate impact on school district budgets, since districts had not planned on this additional cost in their preliminary budgets.
We look forward to working with lawmakers to ensure that schools have the resources they need to educate students in our public schools.
The state budget extender generates uncertainty for school districts.
School board members understand that without a final budget deal, a state budget extender is necessary to ensure that state government keeps functioning. However, school boards must adopt budget proposals this year by April 21 and submit property tax levy data to the state by April 24, in preparation for the May 16 public budget vote.
As it appears now, school districts may be proposing budgets without knowing how much revenue they will receive from the state in 2017-18.
Without an enacted state budget, school boards will have to make various assumptions about their state aid. That could result in decisions to override the tax cap, or to cut educational programs.
Under any scenario, these are not optimal budget conditions.
We urge the Executive and Legislature to finalize state aid to education as quickly as possible so schools, parents, taxpayers and students can plan accordingly for the 2017-18 school year.
In an exclusive interview, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher tells Timothy Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA), that school districts may need to hire 180,000 new teachers in the next ten years.
In her conversation with Kremer, Zimpher said, "We are having teacher shortages already, not just universal, but by region and by discipline. So, we need more second language teachers. We need more special ed teachers. We need more STEM teachers. We've known this, but it is finally catching up with us."
NYSSBA is encouraged that overall graduation rates across the state continue to climb. However, we are deeply concerned that graduation gaps among students of color, English language learners, and students in poorer districts continue to persist. These gaps lend support to our belief that the state needs to provide adequate state aid, especially to those districts that are less wealthy and have greater numbers of students for whom English is not their primary language. NYSSBA calls for an additional $2 billion overall in the 2017-18 state budget, including $1.4 billion in foundation aid.
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