Greetings (placeholder for name),
On Tuesday, January 21 Governor Cuomo announced his proposed $178 Billion FY 2021 Executive Budget. Over the next several months, the legislature will analyze the Governor’s spending proposals and revenue estimates, as well as make proposals of their own. By April 1, 2020, the legislature and the Governor are required to come to an agreement on the approval and implementation of the overall state budget for FY21. These proposals, if adopted, will directly impact our state’s great charter schools in the following ways:
The Governor displayed a strong commitment to education through an $826 million annual increase in School Aid — a 3 percent increase that brings the State’s total annual investment to a historic $28.5 billion. The increase of $826M includes $704M in foundation aid, $50M in community schools and $72M in expense based aid reimbursement. Charter schools’ funding will increase in proportion to the overall increase. We will release district-specific rates following the adoption of the overall state budget after April 1st.
NYC Charter schools would receive a 5.3% increase “to innovate, recruit high-quality teachers and staff” which would include $24.9 million in bullet aid, which would be proportionally divided between schools based on enrollment. We support this increased funding for charter schools in NYC, and will also advocate for charter schools statewide to receive an increase in bullet aid as well.
Pre-k and afterschool programs would get an additional $25M total. These funds would provide students with public after school care in high-need communities across the State.
$1M increase for the Summer Youth Employment Program, bringing the total program funding to $45M.
Governor’s Master Teachers Program – “$1.5 million to fund a cohort of master teachers in schools with high rates of teacher turnover or inexperience.” This year the program would cover “high-performing school counselors in schools with high rates of student mental health incidents.”
More broadly, the Governor stated that he wants to “throw out” the education formula. Instead, he is looking to establish education equity to ensure that aid is fairly disbursed to high needs schools, which he will begin to accomplish through the implementation of this proposed funding.
Proposed Amendments and Requirements
In addition to outlining the financial parameters for new and existing educational programs, the Governor also outlined a variety of policy changes:
- Would allow districts, private schools and BOCES to apply for a “waiver of duties” in order to provide an innovative special education program.
- Would allow the “reissuance of a surrendered, revoked or terminated charter… [which] shall not be counted toward the charter cap. Charters revoked, surrendered or terminated after 7/1/15 can be re-issued upon application to the Board of Regents or on the recommendation of the Board of Trustees of SUNY pursuant to a competitive process…” The reissued charters shall not be counted toward the cap.
- Would require all students over 8 years old to receive instruction regarding “civic education and values, our shared history of diversity, the role of religious freedom in this country”. Students in NYC, charter schools, and some non-public schools would visit sites that educate about the Holocaust, including but not limited to a Holocaust museum.
- Would require charitable organizations to file an annual financial statement with the department of tax and finance including detailed descriptions of in-kind donations and details on any restricted uses for the donation.
- Would establish the Syracuse Comprehensive Education and Workforce Training Center focusing on STEAM. This public high school would serve students in grades 9-12. Students in Onondaga, Cortland and Madison counties would be eligible to attend as long as their local district opted in. The school would be governed by the Syracuse City School District Board of Education. Districts would be required to make payments, established according to a formula, to the Syracuse City School District for each student from their district. All students eligible to attend school in a district that participates is eligible to attend the school. If there are more applicants than slots, a lottery is required. Districts that participate would be required to provide transportation regardless of mileage. The school would partner with SUNY Empire State College to offer career readiness and opportunities.
- Would appoint a monitor for the Rochester City School District – the monitor would be a non-voting member of the school board; have power and be required to hold hearings to get comments from public on “existing statutory and regulatory authority” of SED and the Board of Regents, the academic and fiscal performance of the district; With the RCSD superintendent, develop a financial plan and an academic improvement plan.
- Amend the New York Constitution’s Equal Rights Amendment to add sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, national origin, age and disability as protected classes.
The Governor also proposes requiring employers, regardless of their size, to offer sick leave to their employees. Organizations of up to 4 employees would be required to provide 5 days of unpaid sick leave. Organizations with 5-99 employees would be required to provide 5 days of paid sick leave. Organizations employing 100 or more would be required to provide 7 days of paid sick leave. Sick time would accrue at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked.
$6.1B Deficit Reduction
The Governor’s proposal will reform the current Medicaid system and work to close the $6.1B deficit with a new Medicaid Redesign Team; this team will work to identify $2.5B in savings this year by finding industry efficiencies or additional industry revenue with zero impact on beneficiaries.
The Governor is putting forward a prevailing wage proposal again this year. His proposal would require private construction projects of $5 million or more that receive at least 30% of their funding from public money to comply with prevailing wage laws. While there are many carve-outs, including not-for-profits and school space projects under 20K square feet where there is a lease with the NYC school district or construction authority, charter schools are not specifically exempt from this proposed law.
The Joint Budget Committee Hearing on Education will be on Tuesday, February 4th in the Legislative Office Building in Albany. We will provide testimony for the hearing. In addition, we will be meeting with legislators and Governor’s office staff at the Capitol regarding the Budget to advocate for our great charter schools and equal educational opportunity for all kids. Please provide any feedback on these proposals that you wish us to consider while we advocate for your great charter schools during the Budget season!
Yomika S. Bennett