Coalition disappointed with education budget increase

Legislative Gazette

Kelly Fay

1/22/14

http://www.legislativegazette.com/Articles-Top-Stories-c-2014-01-22-86492.113122-Coalition-disappointed-with-education-budget-increase.html

After the unveiling of the 2014-2015 Executive Budget, legislators, parents and school administrators are calling the proposed 3.8 percent increase in funding for New York’s schools a disappointment.

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined plans to increase school aid by more than $600 million this year — nearly 4 percent — the amount falls far short of the $1.9 billion in direct funding this year education advocates have been demanding.

In his Executive Budget, Cuomo outlined plans to implement statewide pre-K, establish policy to smoothen the implementation of Common Core standards and financial incentives for the most effective teachers. The early education initiative will be funded with $1.5 billion provided over a five-year period. Cuomo also proposed $720 million for the expansion of afterschool programs and a $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act to fund the use of technology in the classroom.

While applauding the governor’s demand for access to early education, advocates including the Alliance for Quality Education and Citizen Action of New York said inadequate funding levels would not allow for the successful implementation of the initiatives announced.

“The governor has frequently harped on the idea that money really doesn’t matter in education and we spend too much on education,” said Billy Easton, executive director of Alliance for Quality Education. “The fact is that in those school districts that we spend a lot— the ones that drive up the statewide average — the outcomes of students are phenomenal but there is a huge inequality between wealthy and poor districts.”

According to Easton, New York leads in education inequality that has consistently grown since Cuomo has taken office. He added, despite an overall increase in school funding laid out in the governor’s budget, schools would still be forced to make cuts to much needed services.

Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, D-Albany, said she’s thrilled with the governor backing after school programs and pre-kindergarten. However, she raised concern over whether expanding the programs would detract from the K-12 system.

Fahy criticized the governor’s plans to provide $2 billion in tax cuts without providing the $1.9 billion education funding requested by 83 members of the state Legislature or the $1.3 billion recommended by the Board of Regents.

“I was thinking this morning I must still be very, very new, because I made the mistake of really getting my hopes up this year,” Fahy said. “We cannot talk about $2 billion in tax cuts in this state while we’re knocking the knees out from under education and we can’t talk about raising standards without the funding to do so.”