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April 9, 2008
CONTACT: Jeffrey Gordon


Even in Tough Fiscal Times, Education Must Remain a Priority

Governor David A. Paterson today announced that the Enacted Budget includes a historic $1.75 billion increase in school aid for districts across New York. It also continues the Contracts for Excellence accountability initiative to ensure that districts with struggling schools that receive the largest funding increases will invest in methods that are proven to improve student performance and help close the achievement gap.

“Even in difficult fiscal times, we still must strive to provide critical funding for our education system,” said Governor Paterson. “New York must be ready to address both the challenges and opportunities presented by the global economy, and that means ensuring that our students have the knowledge they need to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.”

The $1.75 billion (8.9 percent) increase included in the Enacted Budget will bring total school aid statewide to $21.4 billion. Foundation Aid, which targets funding to high-needs districts based on objective criteria of district wealth and student need, will comprise the vast majority of this investment, totaling $14.9 billion, an increase of $1.2 billion (8.8 percent).

The Enacted Budget provides $8.33 billion in school aid to New York City, an increase of $644 million or 8.4 percent. As part of this investment, a total of $6.2 billion in Foundation Aid will be directed to the City, which represents an increase of $622 million (11.2 percent).

Because delivering early learning opportunities for young children has been documented as one of the most effective ways to improve student achievement later in life, the Budget includes $451 million in funding for the Governor’s goal of Universal Prekindergarten by 2010-11. This represents a $96 million increase compared to projected spending on that program in 2007-08, and will support 120,000 students receiving these services, an increase of over 27,000.

Large Foundation Aid increases for districts with struggling schools will continue to be subject to the Contracts for Excellence accountability program, which ensures that this funding will be used on proven strategies for improving student achievement. Under this initiative, enacted in last year’s budget, these strategies include lowering class size, increasing student time on task, providing full-day prekindergarten or kindergarten, expanding teacher quality initiatives, and restructuring middle or high schools.

The Contract for Excellence initiative has been revised slightly in the 2008-09 Budget. Programs to help English Language Learners meet grade level requirements have been added as an approved activity under the contract. Additionally, districts must have a school in need of an improvement for two consecutive years in order to be subject to Contracts for Excellence accountability measures, rather than only one year under the previous statutory provisions.

While Foundation Aid will continue to be calculated based on the cost of a successful education and student needs, several adjustments were made to that formula in order to balance the competing priorities of targeting support to high-needs districts, preserving funding stability, and addressing budgetary constraints.

The changes to the formula include:

  • Enhancing the Foundation Aid Formula to ensure that high needs school districts continue to receive the greatest increases in Foundation Aid;
  • Decreasing the maximum increase from 25 percent to 15 percent;
  • Decreasing the second year phase-in of the program from 42.5 percent of the planned four-year increase to 37.5 percent.

The Executive Budget proposal to decrease the minimum Foundation Aid increase for districts from 3 percent to 2 percent will not be implemented.

The Enacted Budget also includes $202 million in High Tax Aid for those school districts with the highest property tax burden compared to wealth. This is an increase of $102 million compared to the previous year.

Proposed reforms to the BOCES aid formula included in the Executive Budget will not be implemented. BOCES funding will total $672 million, an increase of $49 million (7.8 percent) compared to 2007-08.

Other initiatives contained in the 2008-09 Enacted Budget education plan include:

English Language Learners: The Budget includes an increase in aid of $2 million to support and encourage the expansion and replication of proven programs serving the increasing number of English Language learners enrolling in New York's public schools.

21st Century Learning Centers: In the 2008-09 school year, the State will provide $10 million for the 21st Century Learning Centers program. These centers provide academic enrichment outside of regular school hours, primarily to children who attend high-poverty and low-performing school.

Background Checks: In order to promote student safety and security, the Enacted Budget increases funding for the State Education Department’s Office of Higher Education and the Office of the Professions by $1.2 million to a total of $8.4 million. The funding will be used to enhance the department’s ability to conduct criminal history background checks and process fingerprints of prospective employees of school districts, charter schools and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES).