Wed, Jan 23, 2008
7.4% Increase Proposed for Aid to Schools (Less Than Expected)
By Meaghan M. McDermott, Democrat & Chronicle
Although Gov. Eliot Spitzer's budget boosts education spending by a record amount, the increase is less than local school districts had been expecting.
"Those of us in school finance understand proposals and programs have to be adjusted as circumstances warrant," said Jeff Crane, superintendent of West Irondequoit schools and president of the Monroe County Council of School Superintendents. "I think we're understanding of the pressures the governor has to deal with and are still pleased by his commitment to a world-class education system."
Still, Crane said, school officials "know these numbers are always in flux and are going to change" between now and when the state budget is enacted. "We will plan for the worst and hope for the best."
State Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece, said he's not pleased that the budget's school aid formula shifts more money to New York City and away from Rochester. He said he hopes the Senate will be able to change that.
Spitzer's 2008-09 budget proposal would increase aid to schools statewide by $1.46 billion or 7.4 percent, to $21 billion. But the aid to high-need districts would be about $93 million less than what was approved in the 2007-08 budget as part of a four-year, $7 billion investment.
Under the plan, state aid to Monroe County schools would still jump by nearly $82 million, or 10 percent. That includes more than $36 million in additional funding for the City School District.
"We are grateful for Governor Spitzer's continued commitment to education funding," said Rochester Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard, calling the proposal "very positive for our schools."
Rochester's aid increase for the current year was $18 million, and the 2007-08 aid total is more than $369 million.
Brizard said the new money will be used to bolster successful programs.
Steve Achramovitch, superintendent of Greece schools, said it's too early to talk about the impact Spitzer's proposal could have on his district. But, he said, since the proposed funding is less than the district had been expecting, officials will have to readjust their budget projections for 2008-09.
"We're really in the process of verifying the numbers and taking the new information to the Board of Education," said Achramovitch.
Statewide school advocates warned that lower-than-expected aid increases would have a negative impact on learning.
"This translates into fewer teachers, larger classrooms, less investment in strategies from middle-school reform to after-school programs," said Geri Palast, executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a group that has campaigned for more state aid for urban schools.
Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the stateâ€™s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >