New York State Budget Shortchanges Public Schools, Makes a Mockery of Foundation Aid Study

New York State finally has a budget, passed three weeks after the April 1 deadline, but it shortchanges public schools by $236 million when compared with February projections and what is currently in law.

This loss of funding is the result of Governor Kathy Hochul’s decision to use an inflation measure that is below the actual rate of inflation for the express purpose of keeping state expenses down. Education Law Center joined fellow advocates in vigorously opposing Governor Hochul’s original – and ultimately unsuccessful – budget proposal, which would have resulted in approximately $419 million in school aid cuts.

The Governor’s focus on cost cutting has also threatened the future of New York State school aid. For the past two years, advocates across the state, including ELC, have been calling for a review of the Foundation Aid Formula to comply with the Court of Appeals ruling in Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), New York’s landmark school funding case. The Court determined that in order to meet its constitutional obligation to adequately fund public schools, New York State must “ascertain the actual cost of providing a sound basic education.” 

In the seventeen years since the Foundation Aid Formula was enacted, New York State curriculum standards have evolved; the student population has changed; and other changes impacting resources have occurred. But the base costs and weights in the Formula have not been revised to reflect this.

ELC and statewide partners have urged the State to engage school finance experts and communities across New York to update the Formula so that it keeps pace with the current cost of education. The New York State Regent’s proposed that the New York State Education Department (NYSED) conduct this review and requested $1 million to support it.

But the just signed budget instead provides for a “Foundation Aid Study” that will result in a school funding system that is “fiscally sustainable,” not one that provides a constitutionally sound basic education. In fact, the budget law explicitly states that the study “shall not establish the constitutional minimum cost to provide an opportunity for a sound basic education.” 

In addition, the budget provides that the Foundation Aid Study will be conducted by the Rockefeller Institute. Unlike NYSED, which was instrumental in developing the Foundation Aid Formula, the Rockefeller Institute has no experience in school finance or conducting education cost studies. In addition, the choice of the Rockefeller Institute is particularly alarming, as its Director of Education Policy has long advocated for the diversion of public money to private school vouchers.

“New York State’s constitutional obligation to provide a sound basic education can’t be met without a sound cost estimate for that education,” said Robert Kim, ELC Executive Director. “To direct that a school finance study be guided by some abstract notion of sustainability instead of what the law and the courts require renders the study questionable at best, and most likely useless.”  

New Yorkers have advocated for thirty years to ensure every child receives a constitutionally guaranteed opportunity to a sound basic education. In order to make that promise a reality, ELC will continue to fight to ensure that the voices of communities across New York, as well as school finance experts, will be heard in any attempts to reform the Foundation Aid Formula.  

Related Stories:



Share this post:

Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x240