Aid Increases, GEA Remains in Governor’s Budget
The state investment in schools would increase by $807 million or
3.8 percent next year if enacted as outlined in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s
Executive Budget. The increase includes funding that the governor
has earmarked for the launch of several new education initiatives.
Locally, the Fort Plain Central School
District would see a 4.31 increase in state aid under his proposal.
One of the new initiatives highlighted by the
governor is the phase-in of universal, full-day pre-kindergarten
statewide. High-quality early education is one of the best
investments to be made in education, but many schools do not have
the space, staffing or equipment for such a program, acknowledged
the governor. He proposed spending $1.5 billion over five years to
phase in the program.
“The state will move as fast as districts
move,” he said. “It becomes a government chore to develop capacity.”
Gov. Cuomo also proposed a $2 billion bond for a Smart Schools
initiative to go before voters in November. If approved, the bond
would give schools money for infrastructure improvements related to
high-speed broadband access and classroom technology (e.g.,
smartboards, tablets). Schools could also use the funds to construct
new pre-kindergarten classrooms, if the funds allow or if they
prefer. The state would distribute the funds to schools based on the
existing state aid formula.
Other new education initiatives in his proposal include:
Investing $720 million over a five-year
period in afterschool programs. Districts would have to submit
plans to the State Education Department for approval.
An $8 million SUNY/CUNY full-scholarship
program for the top 10 percent of high school graduates.
Eligible graduates must pursue careers in science, technology,
engineering or math and work in New York State for five years
following graduation from college.
A $20 million Teacher Excellence
Fund that would allow teachers rated as “highly effective” to be
eligible to receive rewards of up to $20,000 annually.
Officially eliminating standardized tests
for students in grades K-2. Currently there are no state
assessments in those grades.
Remaining in his proposal is the Gap
Elimination Adjustment (GEA), which was introduced in 2010 as a way
for the state government to close its budget deficit. It did so by
spreading the funding shortfall around to all school districts
through a GEA reduction to the overall Foundation Aid due to
schools. Despite New York’s anticipated surplus, the governor’s
proposal calls for only a partial restoration ($323 million) of
funds withheld from districts through the GEA.
That amounts to only $185,922 returned to Fort Plain. The district
has lost $3,205,314 from the 2010-11 school year through the 2013-14
school year due to the GEA, and the GEA loss for the district in the
Gov.’s proposed budget is $272,022
“Our advocacy efforts continue to be about
eliminating the GEA completely,” said Fort Plain Superintendent
Douglas Burton. “We are a rural, high needs district, and as I’ve
said this year, poorer school districts have borne the brunt of Gap
Elimination Adjustment reductions to state aid.”
The Executive Budget also proposes a two-year
property tax freeze for homeowners residing in school districts that
meet certain conditions. During the first year of the freeze, a
district would have to pass a budget with a levy that stays within
its property tax levy cap. During the second year, in addition to
again staying within its cap, a district would have to agree to and
implement a state-approved plan for shared services and
Last year, 96 percent of school districts,
including Fort Plain were able to stay within their property tax
levy caps largely through reductions to programs, services and
Visit http://www.budget.ny.gov/ for more
details on the governor’s budget.
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