On Sunday, April 9, New York lawmakers approved a 2017-18 state budget that calls for an overall increase in education funding of $1.1 billion, or 4.4 percent.
Lawmakers enacted the budget nine days after the April 1 state budget deadline, providing school district leaders with critical state aid information as they finalize school budget proposals for the 2017-18 school year. Voters will consider those proposals during the statewide school budget vote day on Tuesday, May 16.
The overall state aid increase includes $700 million in additional Foundation Aid and growth of $289 million in state reimbursements for designated expenses such as transportation, construction and BOCES services. These are the predominant sources of state funding for everyday school operations and capital improvements.
The remainder of the state aid increase includes additional funding for charter schools and increased state support for a variety of school initiatives, including afterschool programming, prekindergarten and school technology. The $1.1 billion increase is less than the $1.5 billion that the Educational Conference Board, a coalition of statewide education groups, said last fall would be necessary to preserve current school services next year. The Board of Regents had recommended an increase of $2.1 billion.
The budget preserves the Foundation Aid formula for distributing school aid, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo had proposed to discontinue in his executive budget proposal in January. Foundation Aid was enacted in 2007 to ensure all school districts have the funding needed to provide students with a sound, basic education.
The 2017-18 state budget supports several other programs and initiatives related to education:
• Prekindergarten: The budget provides an additional $5 million to continue the expansion of half-day and full-day prekindergarten programs for three- and four-year-old children in high-need school districts.
• Community Schools: Total Foundation Aid includes a $150 million “set aside” for community schools, an increase of $50 million over 2016-17. The funding will continue efforts to turn schools designated as struggling, as well as those in other high-need districts, into community hubs that provide academic, physical and mental health care, afterschool programming and other services to students and their families.
• Afterschool Programming: The budget includes $35 million in new funding to expand afterschool programs for students in schools located in designated high-poverty areas. This new funding will create an additional 22,000 spots for students in afterschool programs.
• Technology: The budget includes $5 million to support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in nonpublic schools.
• Charter schools: The budget includes a $5.6 million increase in charter school funding.
• Early College High School: The budget includes $5.3 million to add new early college high school programs, with a focus on developing computer science programs, and nearly $1.5 million for the continuation of existing programs.
• Advanced Placement Test Assistance for Families: The budget includes an additional $1.5 million to help low-income students with the cost of taking AP exams.
• Empire State Excellence in Teaching Awards: The budget provides $400,000 for a second round of Empire State Excellence in Teaching awards, providing at least 60 selected teachers across the state with a $5,000 award for professional development activities.
• Cyberbullying: The budget provides $300,000 to fund certain school-based initiatives to combat cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment.
• STAR: More than $3.15 billion of the state budget will fund New York’s STAR (School Tax Relief) and Enhanced STAR exemptions for property taxpayers. The budget does not hold the value of STAR exemptions at existing levels, as was proposed by the governor in January.