NYSSBA gives state legislators set of proposals on state aid
On Board Online • January 14, 2019
By Brian Fessler
Deputy Director of Governmental Relations
As school districts throughout New York State experience significant increases in student need - from poverty, to special education enrollments, to new English language learners - NYSSBA is advocating for a $2.2 billion increase in state aid in the 2019-20 budgetary year.
Combined with limitations created by the property tax cap and other local funding, this proposed state aid increase would represent less than a 4.5 percent increase in revenue for school districts statewide.
Foundation aid comprises nearly two-thirds of the overall request, with NYSSBA proposing a $1.4 billion increase in the state's main operating aid category. Under the proposal, all districts would receive a foundation aid increase, recognizing the annual cost increases that all districts face. The majority of the $1.4 billion would be distributed to districts that are most underfunded, based on how much foundation aid they currently receive compared to what the formula says districts should receive.
"Headed into 2019-20, the state is nearly $4.1 billion below full phase-in of the foundation aid formula," said William Miller, NYSSBA president. "We are calling on the state to commit to a three-year phase-in of the remaining gap."
NYSSBA also is advocating for updates and improvements to the formula itself, accounting for the many changes in our educational environment over the past decade-plus. These recommendations include:
- Adjusting the weighting for high-need students.
- Improving data collection for student poverty.
- Updating the Regional Cost Index.
- Eliminating the Income Wealth Index floor.
- Reviewing the impact of student-based district wealth factors in areas of declining enrollment.
NYSSBA also calls for the state to conduct a new "costing out" study to determine an up-to-date cost to educate a successful student.Such a calculation forms the basis of the foundation aid formula. A new costing out study would take time to do well, but could realistically be completed in time for use in the 2020-21 state budget.
Beyond foundation aid, NYSSBA has a number of recommendations on other forms of school aid. Along with the full funding of expense-based aids (BOCES, transportation, building, etc.), NYSSBA is calling for the creation of new temporary aid categories for districts experiencing recent growth in English language learners (ELLs) and overall enrollment.
Statewide, ELL enrollment has increased each of the past five years and now stands at nearly a quarter million. More than 150 districts have experienced overall enrollment growth at some point within the past three years, and many of those students have been high-cost special education pupils.
"While the foundation aid formula remains underfunded, these students are not generating the financial support that they otherwise would," said Julie M. Marlette, NYSSBA's director of governmental relations. Combined, these two categories would provide nearly $100 million to more than 200 districts in the upcoming year.
To help address the growing need for student health and mental health services within schools, NYSSBA has proposed a new expense-based aid category for health services provided to students that are not covered by other state or federal funding sources. To make sure school have adequate facilities to provide such services, NYSSBA also is recommending the state allow building aid for all health, dental and mental health space. Currently, building aid is permitted only in limited circumstances.
While NYSSBA's health and mental health service proposal likely will be relevant in discussions of school safety, NYSSBA also is calling on the state to provide additional safety-related funds for school districts, with a focus on flexibility. "We believe that school district leaders and their local communities are best able to decide how school safety funding should be used in their respective districts," Marlette said. "Hardening entrances may be appropriate for one school district, while an increase in the number of school resource officers might be a better approach for another."
NYSSBA also is carrying forward a number of proposals that have been part of prior budget requests, including building and transportation aid forgiveness, a plan to pay down prior year aid claims, increasing state aid for career and technical education and the creation of a dedicated reserve fund for Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) costs.
NYSSBA's budget recommendations come on the heels of the Board of Regents' state aid proposal and release of a school finance white paper by the Educational Conference Board (ECB) - an education coalition of which NYSSBA is a member.
The ECB is calling for a $2.2 billion school aid increase in their paper, which can be viewed here: bit.ly/2COW6Vu .
The Regents approved a $2.1 billion school aid ask, with a strong focus on fully funding the foundation aid formula. Their proposal can be viewed here: bit.ly/2CPOBgY .
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