New York State School Boards Association

EDUCATION ADVOCACY ACTIVITY


December 23, 2013 

AND…THEY’RE OFF!

Regents State Aid Proposal Kicks Off 2014 Budget Process

This week, the Board of Regents released a set of proposals to the legislature, including its 2014-15 state aid proposal and its 2014 budget, legislative and federal priorities.  Historically, the Regent’s state aid proposal kicks off the budget cycle and is released prior to the governor issuing an executive budget.  Governor Cuomo is required to release his budget by January 21 and is expected to outline priorities during his State of the State address on January 8.

The Regents State Aid proposal calls for a total increase in school aid of $1.3 billion in the 2014-15 school year.  Funding is said to increase for all categories of school district but the greatest increases would be directed to high-needs school districts.  Specifics of the proposal include:

  • $719 million would be distributed according to a new Transition Operating Aid formula (taking into account the fiscal capacity of school districts, extraordinary student needs and a regional cost adjustment.)  The formula is described as two-tiered – a Foundation tier taking into account the cost-drivers of Foundation Aid and a Fiscal Capacity tier to reduce remaining Gap Elimination Adjustment amounts.
  • $281 million increase in expense-based aids, including transportation aid, building aid, special education and BOCES aid.  This amount fully funds the reimbursable categories according to their present formulas.
  • $50 million increase (nearly 20 percent) in instructional materials aid.  The additional aid would be directed to help districts align instructional materials (texts, computer software and computer hardware) to the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS).
  • $125 million toward a Core Instruction Fund.  This would provide funding for professional development for teachers in the Common Core, including funding for substitute teachers to enable teachers to engage in professional development during the school day.  It would also provide funding for activities to promote parental understanding of the Common Core.
  • $125 million for high quality, full day prekindergarten.  The Regents recommend a long-term funding stream for early childhood programming to give districts more confidence that there will be funding for early childhood programming in future years.
  • Enhanced financial support for Career and Technical Education (CTE).  This would include increasing the BOCES aidable portion of a BOCES instructor salary, which is currently $30,000 and has not been increased since the 1990s.
  • Incentive aid for the creation of regional high schools, once their establishment is approved by the legislature.  The Regents also recommend improving existing incentives for reorganization.

As part of their 2014-15 budget priorities, the Regents are requesting additional funding for improved printing and distribution processes for grades 3-8 testing.  The Regents believe this will reduce the need for field testing exam questions.   Additionally, the Regents are requesting additional funding for the creation of new Native Language Arts Exams, starting with Spanish.  This would afford districts the option of assessing English Language Learners who have attended school in the United States for less than three consecutive years in their native language.   Finally, the Regents are seeking additional funding for an online test delivery pilots of two state assessments. 

The Regents state aid proposal and budget priorities, as well as their legislative priorities (including their state and federal legislative priorities) can be accessed below:

ECB Weighs In

The Educational Conference Board (which is composed of NYSSBA, NYSCOSS, NYSUT, NYSPTA, ASBO, SAANYS and the Conference of Big 5 School Districts) issued its own state aid recommendations this week.  It calls for an aid increase of $1.3 billion, an increase of 7%.  The report notes that this year’s expected tax levy cap for districts will be at or below 2%, making state aid particularly important in avoiding cuts to educational programs and services. The Educational Conference Board estimates that school districts will need to increase spending by $2.4 billion (3.9%) to maintain current programs.   This ECB estimate was based on a total spending figure for the 2013-14 school year of $60.7 billion. This 3.9% increase in spending would increase total spending to $63.1 billion.  The ECB calls for an increase in aid that mirrors the Regents’ total state aid proposal, though the ECB would not categorize $300 million of the aid for professional development, Career and Technical Education or Pre-K, instead providing it in unrestricted aid.  An increase in local spending of 2%, combined with a state aid increase of $1.3 billion would enable school districts to absorb next year’s anticipated cost increases and reduce the Gap Elimination Adjustment.

Common Core

On Monday, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch announced the establishment of a subcommittee to review implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards.  This action follows last week’s release of a report by Senator John Flanagan, Chair of the Senate Education Committee which, in part, critiqued the department’s roll out of Common Core instruction and assessments.

Additionally, Commissioner John King said that SED supports and identified steps SED is taking to address recommendations made by the Educational Conference Board to help improve implementation of the Common Core.

Governor Acts on Key Legislation

A.4810A/S.3564A – This week the governor vetoed legislation that would have placed significant restrictions on Job Order Contracting (JOC), reducing the value of this procurement process as an option available to school districts and other municipalities to achieve efficiencies.  Under JOC, a contractor is essentially on-call and ready to perform a series of small to medium-sized construction projects, repairs and routine maintenance.  As stated in the governor’s veto message, JOC is meant to streamline the process of administering such projects.  This means increased flexibility to respond to situations expediently as they arise and cost savings in administration.  Districts continue to face significant fiscal challenges and need more, not less, options to achieve efficiencies.  Retaining JOC as it currently exists prevents districts from needing to separately bid many smaller projects.

S.1604/A.4099 – The governor vetoed this bill that would have required school districts and boards of educational services (BOCES) to grant a leave of absence to volunteer emergency workers during a declared state of emergency.  NYSSBA advocated against this measure, and against the proliferation of mandated leave bills.  Leave time should remain an employee benefit that is negotiated between school districts and their employees.  Additionally, school employees are often needed at the school building assisting students and families during emergencies.  Further, mandated time-off provisions are cost prohibitive as they require not only leave for the employee, but salary for substitute teachers and other staff. 

A.508 –The governor also vetoed legislation that would have transferred a state armory to the Cedarmore Corporation for $1.  The Village of Freeport requested use of the vacant facility for legitimate municipal purposes.   Yet, the legislature saw fit to transfer the property to a religiously affiliated corporation, which intends to house a charter school in the property.  Aside from the issue of whether the facility itself is of proper construction to house a public charter school, there can be little question that such a transfer would dramatically diverge from the stated interests of the community.  The Freeport UFSD has already been besieged with reductions in educational programs and services, as well as enduring the loss of $3 million in revenue to charter schools already located nearby.

S.4872/A.6984 – This bill exempts the Nanuet school district from a real property taxation requirement to have no more than 57.5% of non-homestead property in one town.  This bill will allow the Nanuet school district to exceed the percentage of non-homestead property allowed in one or more city or town assessing units, increasing the amount of taxes levied from commercial and industrial properties.  NYSSBA advocated for this measure to allow the district to temporarily surpass this threshold due to a large tax certiorari in one of the towns in the school district.  Many school districts have been repeatedly harmed by tax base calculations that do not accurately reflect the community’s true fiscal circumstances.  This, in turn, underfunds their schools and has a negative effect on the quality of education the district can afford to provide its children.  This bill has been on the governor’s desk for ten days without action.  As a result, it has become law, and it will soon have a chapter number. 

A.481/S.3788 – Last evening, Governor Cuomo signed a NYSSBA priority bill requiring the Department of Financial Services to disclose health care utilization information to school districts each quarter, as well as claims and premium data.  NYSSBA advocated for this bill to enable school districts to achieve greater efficiencies in the procurement of health insurance for their employees. 

With these actions, NYSSBA’s No New Mandates! campaign to prevent all new unfunded legislative mandates was a complete success.  This was the first year in a generation that significant new state education aid came without new directives on how it must be spent. 

Governor’s Education Reform and Tax Commission Reports>

We expect the release of the governor’s Education Reform Commission report next week.  The New New York Education Reform Commission’s full report is scheduled to be released prior to the end of the year.  Last year’s preliminary report focused on easily agreed upon recommendations.  This full report is expected to be directed at the much more complex issue of school funding.   The governor’s tax commission report issued a proposal to have the state pay the increased tax needed to pay increases from this school year to next, providing the district stays at or below the tax levy cap.  If enacted the plan would make exceeding the cap even more difficult for districts, as voters would be offered the choice of having the state pay all of their increased taxes for the year, or paying for an amount over the cap themselves.  This proposal would make sufficient state aid of particular importance, as insufficient aid would preclude districts from meeting cap limits without significant programmatic and staffing cuts.  It appears incongruous that the governor would maintain the need for a Gap Elimination Adjustment while advocating for a significant tax reduction.  Providing a tax cut, reducing the GEA and providing sufficient state aid to bring schools beyond the 2009 spending levels currently provided would appear a monumental undertaking.

Federal Budget News

This past week both the United States House and Senate passed compromise budget bills that will now move to the president for signature.  The move blocks the stalemate that led to the shutdown of the federal government and across the board sequestration cuts to federal funding.  The budget agreement will remain in place for two years and though it contains specific cuts, it eliminates the sequester.  As a result, cuts to IDEA and Title I, E Rate and other federal funds should return to pre-sequestration levels. 

Happy Holidays from Your NYSSBA Advocacy Team!


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