Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Budget and the Schools

Well, credit where credit is due. As authorized in the two-year education aid plan last year, there will be an $850 million total aid increase for public education. $290 million in aid was equitably distributed to schools on the basis of need. The $250 million the Governor had wanted to devote to competitive grants was released in main part—only $50 million this year (and $75 million next year) will be in the form of grant monies, and the rest will be used to offset the Gap Elimination Adjustment, the amount the state deducts from education aid to reduce its own deficit. Reimbursable aid categories (BOCES, Special Ed, Transportation, Building Aid) retain their existing funding formula. Preschool special ed costs remain with the state and counties, not back at the districts. Schools have more leeway in purchasing buses, rather than being forced to buy them on state contract. Students whose parents receive public assistance are automatically enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program—a critical plus toward getting poor schools the funding they need.*

In related news, the dollar amount of lobbying continues to rise in NYS. A lot of the changes above required some skillful negotiations behind the scenes plus a concerted petition and letter-writing drive. But the result seems good. More to follow as we learn more.

*LATER: And something most states have been doing for years. As usual, NYS is late to the party.

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