After several extensions, New York State has finalized a budget for the fiscal year 2024. Included in the $229 billion approved budget was a total of $34.5 billion for education funding in the upcoming school year. The budget also includes a state subsidy that will allow schools to provide free breakfast and lunch programs regardless of income.
While the budget maintains a regional cap for charters in New York City, it does make clear that charters that were issued and subsequently returned or rescinded (so-called “zombies”) will not be counted toward the regional limit. That is, 22 charters that were issued for public charter schools that were closed or would never be opened will be voided and not counted as an existing charter. As a result, the state’s charter authorizers can issue up to 14 new charters in New York City, and 8 new charters in the rest of the state.
This statutory change will provide an opportunity for new school founders to open public charter schools while maintaining the total statewide cap of 460 charters. This means additional opportunities for families to enroll their students in new, high-quality public schools that are free, public, and open to all, like all public charter schools in New York State.
The executive budget released in February proposed changes that would have removed the regional cap for New York City to allow approximately 100 more public charter schools throughout the five boroughs. However, this proposal did not make it into the final budget.
“We are so grateful to the governor for championing this effort,” said NYCSA Executive Director Yomika Bennett. “In no way was this an easy fight; nevertheless, she persisted. And while the final result was not all that we had hoped for, it is still a win for the children and families of this state who will now have access to more high-quality public school options.”
The final budget provides approximately $3 billion in total Foundation Aid for all school districts. The funding provides a minimum 3% increase in Foundation Aid to districts – even for districts that already receive their fully-funded share of Foundation Aid. Meanwhile, public charter school students in 11 districts throughout the state, including Rochester, Syracuse, Mt. Vernon, Lackawanna, and Elmira, are not slated to receive the basic “cost of living” increase. The estimated total cost to provide a minimum 3% increase for public charter school students who reside in these districts is $3.5 million, less than a tenth of a percent of total school aid.
The Association had advocated strongly for the final New York State budget to provide a 3% minimum increase for public charter school funding and to make sure public charter school students are not excluded from public school programs such as My Brother’s Keeper, student mental health, and the P-12 Clean Green Schools Initiative. That did not happen.
In addition, the state budget does not include building or transportation aid for public charter schools.
“The fact that public charter school students are not receiving equitable treatment is beyond disappointing,” said Bennett. “These children should not receive less than the minimum given to children attending district schools. They are all New York public school students.”
For months, NYCSA has been advocating for four key priorities to be included in the state’s 2023-24 budget:
- FAIR FUNDING FOR PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL EDUCATION
Increase per-pupil funding for public charter school students and expand eligibility for building aid and transportation aid to include charter schools.
- STREAMLINE STATE AID PAYMENTS TO PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS
Allow public charter schools to opt-in to receive school aid directly instead of aid passing through local school districts.
- EQUAL ACCESS TO PUBLIC EDUCATION PROGRAMS FOR PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL STUDENTS
Allow public charter school students equal access to programs intended to benefit all public school students such as: My Brother’s Keeper, P-Tech, Smart Transfer Early High School, student mental health support, teacher diversity pipeline, violence prevention, school-based trauma mitigation, P-12 Clean Green Schools Initiative, BOCES and more.
- INCREASE ACCESS TO QUALITY SCHOOLS AND PROMOTE DIVERSITY IN SCHOOL LEADERSHIP
Remove the limit on the number of public charter schools allowed by law to open in New York State and create the Education Equity Fund (A.6150) to provide financial support to people who open and operate charter schools and to attract and support people of color who start schools.
“While we are disheartened that many of the priorities outlined by the Association failed to be included in the state budget, we will continue to fight for our students, our families and our schools,” said Bennett. “Our children are depending on us.”