Cuomo pushing to bypass districts, fund NYS schools directly

January 15, 2019 11:30 PM

Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to bypass districts and fund the state's poorest schools directly. 

Cuomo announced an education equity formula in his State of the State address Tuesday, saying the poorest districts in New York receive 70 percent of state funding but districts are failing to pass the money on to their schools.  

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"We believed that meant we were funding poorer schools but you weren't. You were funding poorer districts," said Cuomo.

Cuomo says several districts, including Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, unfairly distributed the funding.

According to Cuomo, the Rochester City School District gave 32 percent more funding to the district's wealthier schools. But under Cuomo's formula, the state would fund the poorest schools directly.

Van White, the RCSD School Board president, doesn't agree with Cuomo's formula.

White tells News10NBC his district did invest in their poorest schools including East High School, but some of the funding was used to hire additional management.  

"When we decided to invest in East and provide different management, it went from a 30 percent graduation rate to a 61 percent graduation rate," said White. "How much experience does Governor Cuomo have in turning around an urban district? We have had experience and done it successfully." 

The Monroe County School Boards Association are calling Cuomo's move an "overstep in authority."

In an email, Executive Director Sherry Johnson tells News10NBC: 

"School districts may have multiple reasons why funds are distributed differently based on programmatical and population concentrations as well as initiatives that might be housed in particular buildings. That is why elected board members are in the best position to determine where those funds go, providing direct accountability to the tax payer. Our association members will continue to fight for local control and help our local and other legislators understand what drives our costs in both our schools and our districts."

The New York School Boards Association also posted the following statement on their website in response to Cuomo's 2019 budget: 

"Governor Cuomo's budget continues his crusade to erode local-level school decision making by proposing a state formula to determine funding for individual school buildings and making the tax cap permanent. We appreciate the governor's desire to direct funds to the neediest schools, but we disagree with the notion that a state formula devised in Albany can distribute funds to thousands of individual school buildings more fairly and effectively than the locally elected board of education in those communities. 

While the governor proposes a $956 million dollar increase in school aid, it's less than half of the $2.1 billion increase requested by the Board of Regents and falls far short of school district needs. 

With the state behind by $4 billion in foundation aid payments, the conversation we should be having about school aid is how best to phase-in and fully fund the foundation aid formula, not how to create a new formula to re-distribute funds within school districts. 

We need to find ways to encourage greater community engagement in local public schools, not give members of our communities fewer reasons to participate in school budget votes and board elections.

When you take away local decision making, you silence the voice of the community."


Beth Cefalu

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