For the eighth consecutive year, Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing a woefully inadequate aid increase for New York public school students. By its own calculations, New York State owes those students $4.2 billion under the State’s Foundation Aid Formula. In sharp contrast, Governor Cuomo is recommending to the Legislature a mere $338 million increase in Foundation Formula aid, of which $288 is unrestricted.
The Foundation Aid Formula was enacted in 2007 to respond to the landmark ruling by New York’s Court of Appeals in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State litigation (CFE). In that ruling, the state’s highest court concluded that the State had been persistently underfunding New York City public schools in violation of the right to education guaranteed by the State Constitution.
Under the Foundation Aid Formula, the State was obligated to increase aid by $5.5 billion over four years. However, after two years of phasing in the required Foundation Aid amount, the State reneged on its obligation by freezing, then reducing, state school aid. Since then, the State has steadfastly resisted complying with the legal mandate to fully fund the formula for all districts statewide.
“We had hoped Governor Cuomo would, this year, finally honor his obligations under the CFE rulings to ensure adequate funding and resources for all New York students,” said David Sciarra, Executive Director of Education Law Center. “Sadly, when more and more New York children need additional interventions and supports, Governor Cuomo has once again chosen to disregard their constitutional right to a sound basic education.”
As a result of the State’s failures, school districts, particularly New York’s highest poverty districts, have been forced to cut teachers, support staff, services and programs essential to ensure students the opportunity for a constitutional “sound basic education.”
Governor Cuomo’s proposal for 2019 pales in comparison to the $1.25 billion increase in Foundation Aid recommended by the New York State Regents. The New York Educational Conference Board calculated that a $1.5 billion increase is required just to maintain existing programs and services in 2019. Governor Cuomo is proposing just one-fifth of that amount.
The Governor also ignores rapid growth over the past 10 years in the enrollment of economically disadvantaged students and English language learners (ELL). The ELL population has jumped 33% (11% in just the past two years). These students require additional programs and services to provide the opportunity to achieve State academic benchmarks.
Last month, ELC joined the legal team in NYSER v. State, a lawsuit brought by parents in New York City and Syracuse as well as statewide organizations and community groups, to compel the State to fully fund the Foundation Aid Formula and fulfill its constitutional obligation to adequately fund public education. Parents from the Schenectady, Gouverneur and Central Islip districts have also joined the case.
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