After weeks of NYSUT grassroots activism, relentless lobbying and seemingly endless negotiations, the final state budget for 2016–17 moves public education in the right direction and demonstrates that parents and educators — working together for what all students need — have the ear of elected leaders in Albany.
Parents and educators "won a robust state aid increase and new funding to expand prekindergarten, community schools and other essential programs," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee the day the agreement was announced.
"We will continue to seek significantly more aid for the state's neediest school districts and a greater investment in SUNY and CUNY, and we will demand the charter industry and the wealthy extremists who support it be held accountable for serving all students equally," Magee said.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta said, "We appreciate the great work of the Legislature on behalf of public education."
He added that coalitions of parents, education stakeholders and community organizations once again defeated the education investment tax credit; reversed proposed cuts to SUNY hospitals and teacher centers; boosted aid to community colleges; and won a half-billion dollars more for public schools than what was proposed in January.
However, much remains to be done, he said.
"The state should modify the tax cap to ensure that communities can raise the funds they need to invest more in their own children. Imagine where we'd be this year without the tax cap if districts could have combined a 6.5 percent state education increase with as much as $700 million in new local funding," he said.
Zeroing out the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) means the state can now concentrate on fully funding Foundation Aid and making good on its settlement in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, Pallotta noted.
Here are some highlights:
The final budget includes an increase of $1.4 billion for Foundation Aid, GEA elimination and expensebased aids.
- Foundation Aid is increased by $626.6 million.
- GEA is fully eliminated, a restoration of $433.6 million.
- Expense-based aids are fully funded at approximately $340 million.
- $75 million is included to transform persistently struggling and struggling schools into community schools.
- A community schools set-aside of $100 million is included within the Foundation Aid number. During final budget negotiations, NYSUT and its coalition partners stopped a proposal to amend the existing receivership law that would have mandated districts that recently came out of "priority" status and off of the receivership list be placed back into receivership.
- The budget includes $11 million to expand pre-K for 3-year-olds.
- $1.465 million is budgeted for Career and Technical Education via early career high school programs.
- $18 million is included for My Brother's Keeper, to improve outcomes for boys and young men of color.
SUNY 2020 was not extended and tuition for in-state residents at SUNY and CUNY was frozen. However, SUNY can increase out-of-state tuition for a year.
SUNY operating aid decreased by $4.7 million due to the elimination of additional funding for personal services included in last year's budget.
The budget held CUNY operating aid relatively flat but did not include a proposal to shift 30 percent ($485 million) of the cost of senior colleges to New York City.
Funding ($18 million at SUNY and $12 million at CUNY) previously designated for performance-based funding has been repurposed to cover operating costs.
Funding for SUNY hospitals was increased by $18.6 million and restored to the 2015–16 level.
Professional development and teacher centers
Teacher centers are funded at $14.26 million.
- The Teachers of Tomorrow program, $25 million.
- The Mentor/Intern Program, $2 million.
- National Board Certification, $368,000.
$2.3 million increase for 4201 Schools.
- $903,000 allocation for the Henry Viscardi School, and $903,000 for the New York School for the Deaf.
NYSUT will continue to pursue funding parity for 853, Special Act Schools and public 4410 programs during the rate-making process.
School vouchers and tax credits
The Parental Choice in Education Act was defeated and NYSUT will continue to strongly advocate against this back-door voucher proposal.
Due to the strong advocacy efforts of NYSUT and its members and education coalition partners, nearly all of the harmful policy language on charter schools was not included in the final budget.
NYSUT defeated the proposal to increase health insurance premiums for state employees who are enrolled in NYSHIP and were planning on retiring on or after Oct. 1, 2016.
NYSUT also defeated the proposal to freeze the reimbursement of Medicare Part B premiums at $104.90 for NYSHIP retirees with Medicare primary insurance and also defeated the proposal to eliminate the reimbursement of the IRMAA (Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount) for certain NYSHIP retirees.
Farm workers will also be included in the minimum wage increase.