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New York State Exposed Education: Will new information requirements lead to more accountability or higher costs?

April 10, 2018 11:31 PM

The new state budget increased education funding by a billion dollars, which now means New York State now shells out more than $26 billion in tax dollars to schools.

This is hardly new- education is always the biggest number in the budget, and it does seem to go up year after year. The Governor says this year, he wants districts to be more accountable, but some districts say it's another costly demand without much benefit to taxpayers.

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"The state spends more money than any state in the United States per pupil," says Governor Andrew Cuomo, "We spend twice the national average." 

The Governor wants more accountability, so as part of this year's state budget, he is requiring that school districts submit detailed information to the state about where every dollar is being spent, per school building.

76 districts will go first, including Rochester, Brockport, Geneva, and Newark. 

"How do they distribute the money?" asks Governor Cuomo, "School by school, nobody knows. How can that be? Nobody knows?" 

Superintendents say that's simply not true. Matt Cole is the superintendent in Livonia, and represents 22 other local districts at the state level. He says all of these are disclosures that districts make to taxpayers and the state already.

"We don't believe there's anything new that will be shared then what's already available to our public already," he says,"[it's] been submitted through a different accountability measures and different reports we have to do." 

He calls this just posturing by the Governor that just piles more paperwork on school districts- paperwork that will now require Livonia to hire a business manager. 

Superintendents also have another concern: the information needs to be submitted annually after school budget votes but before the state allocates its cash.

"To secure an approval with two state agencies in the course of six weeks is not something that as school district superintendents we think is a likelihood to happen," says Cole.

"Right now, just for capital projects and reviewing capital projects the approval queue that the state has is 38-40 weeks."

We took that concern to state Senator Rich Funke. He says he's all about accountability but worried this will just add more red tape. 

"I'm a firm believer that local school districts know best what their needs are in their own locality, and the state as much as possible ought to get out of the way," he says.

The change was passed as part of the budget but the superintendents are hoping over the course of the next few months they can work with lawmakers to finetune the language and ensure that the state makes the process as smooth as possible for local districts. 

Credits

Jennifer Lewke

Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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