School systems celebrate increase in funding under new state budget

Charles Molineaux
Updated: April 07, 2021 08:55 PM
Created: April 07, 2021 06:03 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Local school systems cautiously celebrated the new state budget, which dramatically increases state aid to struggling school districts like Rochester’s, including progress toward undoing years of underfunding.

“We’re not quite there but this goes a long way toward fiscal equity,” declared Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a Wednesday briefing. 

The governor says state funding for schools is coming back from years of being insufficient.

This year’s budget increases school spending by 11%, including a $1.4 billion increase in what’s called “foundation aid,” the state’s long-term commitment to schools which has been short for years.

“When a district, Rochester and others, says 'We are being shortchanged by the state,' the state's own formula makes that clear,” explained Brian Fessler with the New York State School Boards Association 

The budget increases aid to Rochester by more than $87 million.

Local school leaders have been reluctant to talk before the Assembly also approves the budget but say, that after months of the Rochester school district contemplating devastating cuts, “it’s about time.”

“They are going to have the dollars to close their budget gap and they are going to have the dollars to, then, reinvest in the students,” 138th District Assemblyman Harry Bronson (D) said.

Bronson has long pushed for increased aid to Rochester schools.

“It’s really night and day of a difference from where we were five or six months ago,” Fessler added.

Beyond getting Rochester schools out of their current hole, educational leaders say this budget’s long-term commitment to maintain that foundation aid changes the landscape for a district long focused on its most immediate shortfalls and makes real, long-term plans possible.  

“We now have the financial resources,” Fessler said, “to really make those meaningful investments to improve those outcomes for tomorrow’s students and, hopefully, for generations to come.”

At a Rochester City School District Board of Education meeting held Wednesday night, News10NBC learned the budget brings an additional $367 million to the district over the next three years which includes $87 million in supplemental relief, $197 million from the American Rescue Plan and $83 million in state money.

Copyright 2021 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company