A new Education Law Center research brief released today analyzes New York State’s $1.1 billion cut in state aid for public schools in the FY21 State Budget adopted April 2. The state aid cut, dubbed the “pandemic adjustment” by Governor Andrew Cuomo, is exactly equivalent to the allocation of federal emergency relief funds to New York school districts approved by Congress in late March in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Congress included in the CARES Act $13.5 billion in emergency relief to support the rapid response by the nation’s school districts to a crisis unprecedented in the history of American public education: states closing all public school buildings and transitioning students en masse from classroom instruction to learning at home through remote and digital means.
But the ink was hardly dry on the Act when New York approved the FY21 State Budget and effectively wiped out the promise of additional federal resources to assist the state’s school districts in educating students remotely during the COVID-19 school closure.
New York is the first state to enact a budget in the wake of the CARES Act.
ELC’s research brief shows how the pandemic adjustment is actually a $1.1 billion reduction in state school aid to New York districts, backfilled with the federal CARES Act emergency relief funds. The brief also shows that the aid cuts most impact students in New York City and other high poverty districts. The brief explains how the pandemic adjustment replicates the strategy used by states to cut K-12 education funding during the 2008 Great Recession, cuts which in some states had yet to be restored before the COVID-19 crisis.
“Congress didn’t approve the emergency relief for education in the CARES Act as a trade-off for New York to make cuts in state aid to public schools,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “The pandemic adjustment approved by New York’s Governor and Legislature is actually a ‘pandemic cut’ of over $1 billion in state K-12 support statewide, with a $716 million aid cut to New York City schools alone.”
“The CARE Act funds are meant to provide students with internet access, computer devices, online learning platforms and other supports so teachers can continue instruction while schools are closed,” said Mary McKillip, ELC Senior Researcher. “The pandemic adjustment deprives New York districts of urgently needed funds to narrow the digital divide for students in poor and wealthy communities.”
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