December 04, 2008

REGENTS: Balance need for adequate funding with state's worsening revenue picture

Source: NYS Department of Education

The State Education Department (SED) issued the following press release Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008.

BALANCE NEED FOR ADEQUATE FUNDING WITH STATE'S WORSENING REVENUE PICTURE

In response to the State's economic crisis, the Board of Regents has proposed an increase in State Aid that is almost $1 billion less than the increase previously enacted by the State.

The Regents today approved their 2009-10 State Aid proposal, recommending an increase of $879 million for the upcoming year. This amount represents a 4.1% increase over the previous year.

Regents Chancellor Robert M. Bennett said, "Economic necessity prompts innovation. Our proposal recommends sustaining foundation aid while reducing the increase by half, greatly reducing the State's deficit. We are keenly aware of the State's economic difficulties. We also know that we must continue to educate all children to high standards, close the achievement gap, and get more students to graduate. And we must do all of this without shifting the financial burden to local governments. Our proposal will accomplish those goals."

Bennett continued, "The Regents and I met with the Governor and told him that we are committed to sharing best practices with the State's school districts to help them save money while improving student outcomes."

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills said, "By preserving the foundation aid formula, the Regents have demonstrated their commitment to providing a sound, basic education to those children in greatest need. Such children are at an even greater disadvantage during an economic downturn. It is especially in such times that we must sustain our commitment to them. We must use the State's economic crisis as an opportunity – an opportunity to emphasize the priority of adequate funding for school districts as a platform for the State's future economic health."

Mills continued, "By emphasizing creative ways to control costs while at the same time continuing to pursue higher student achievement, the proposal adopted today shows that the Regents intend to be a constructive partner in the State's budget development process."

The Regents propose targeting the State Aid increase to high need school districts as follows: 44% to the New York City School District, 13% to the Big Four City School Districts, 8% to high need urban/suburban districts, 13% to high need rural districts, and 22% to average and low need districts.

The Regents recommend an approach to school aid that continues to support the success of school districts in educating the State's neediest students, while reducing costs through mandate relief, increasing the use of shared services, and supporting approaches that will slow the growth of costly special education programs. Their proposal would preserve the foundation formula, while recognizing the need to moderate the pace at which that formula is phased-in. The Regents further recommend maintaining the accountability requirements of the Contracts for Excellence. They recommend asking school districts to reduce costs and increase graduation rates through the use of BOCES. Finally, the Regents proposal calls for the continued expansion of universal pre-kindergarten programs.

Details of the Regents request are provided in the attached Regents Item.

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