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Aid Increases, GEA Remains in Governor’s Budget Proposal

Jan. 22, 2014—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, Guilderland Central School District would see a 1.98 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.

Guilderland Central School District is slated to lose an additional $3.5 million to the GEA in 2014-15, bringing the district’s five-year total loss to approximately $19.5 million under the governor’s plan.

“While a partial restoration of the Gap Elimination Adjustment is helpful, it does not nearly go far enough to solve a problem that is devastating New York’s schools and dismantling quality educational programs statewide. The rationale originally used for creating the GEA no longer exists; schools throughout the state should get the money that they are owed and desperately need.”

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 consolidation.

Last year, 96 percent of school districts, including Guilderland, were able to stay within their property tax levy caps largely through reductions to programs, services and staff.

Visit http://www.budget.ny.gov/ for more details on the governor’s budget.

Want to learn more about the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA)?

 

 

 

 

 

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