MANHATTAN Dec. 3, 2019 — New York State United Teachers today called on the state to fully fund the Foundation Aid formula and provide the $3.4 billion in aid owed to schools statewide as part of testimony during a state Senate public hearing on Foundation Aid.
NYSUT President Andy Pallotta testified that while the union believes the formula should remain the underpinning of school aid policy in New York, due to a lack of funding it does not currently support or respond to the needs of students, educators and school districts.
Pallotta’s submitted testimony is available here.
“Our students don’t get a do-over,” Pallotta said. “Fully funding Foundation Aid is the difference between offering our students high-quality core subjects and enriching courses like art and music, and struggling to meet the constitutional requirement to provide a sound, basic education. This is about justice for our students and addressing the inequality that exists in our education system.”
Roughly 400 school districts statewide are owed $3.4 billion in unpaid Foundation Aid. Of the total amount owed, two-thirds, or $2.3 billion, is owed to high-need districts. At the same time, the numbers of English language learners, students in poverty and students with disabilities in schools across New York have increased over the past decade.
Underfunding and increased needs have resulted in varying issues for school districts. For example, in Yonkers, where schools are owed $38 million in Foundation Aid, the district has just one social worker for every 1,900 students. Meanwhile in Buffalo, which is owed $76 million in Foundation Aid, union leaders report insufficient staffing, long delays in providing services to students with disabilities, and a lack of music and art classes.
Recent increases in Foundation Aid have barely made a dent in the total amount owed. After the 2016–17 school year, districts were owed $3.8 billion in Foundation Aid. In the 2019–20 school year, they are owed $3.4 billion. If state budgets continue paying down the amount owed at that rate, NYSUT estimates it will take 25 years to fully fund the Foundation Aid formula.
NYSUT and its partners on the New York State Educational Conference Board recently called for a total $2.1 billion increase in state aid to education in 2020–21, including $1.6 billion through Foundation Aid and full funding for expense-based reimbursements just to continue current services for students. The ECB is recommending a three-year phase-in of the Foundation Aid owed to schools.
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.