Senate Democratic Majority protects Education funding

Eric Adams

School districts statewide benefit from restoration of vital resources. SUNY and CUNY to retain tuition increases.

Faced with the most challenging economic conditions since the Great Depression, the New York State Senate collaborated with the Governor and the Assembly on an innovative education budget that provided every region of the state, including Upstate, Long Island, and New York City, with equitable funding. In a significant break from the practices of preceding budget negotiations, no region benefited at the expense of another, and the Democratic Majority rallied around the belief that every child in New York State deserves a sound education.

In a further innovative design, the Democratic Majority has adopted a plan to return percentages of SUNY and CUNY tuition increases directly to those public systems on an annually increasing basis. Under prior Senate regulations, approved in 1998 and 2000, all tuition increases were absorbed by the State’s general fund instead of being reinvested in higher education. The Senate Democratic Majority has developed a formula to reinvest tuition increases in SUNY and CUNY in a fair and equitable manner.

The Enacted Budget will include $21.9 billion for K-12 education, an increase of $405 million or 1.9%. The use of federal stimulus funds has enabled the legislature to eliminate cuts under the proposed $1.1 billion Deficit Reduction Assessment (DRA).

Foundation Aid will be maintained at current levels of $14.9 billion. The restorations will help districts avert massive layoffs, increases in class size, and program cuts. Although a lack of additional funding resulting from the economic downturn will delay the four-year scheduled phase-in of full funding of Foundation aid, at the request of the Senate Majority full implementation will occur in 2013-14, a year earlier than the Executive’s proposal.

The Senate Majority also fought for the elimination of the proposed Pre-School Special Education cost shift to school districts, saving the districts $138 million in 2009-10. The spending plan fully funds expense based aids, including transportation (+102.9 million), BOCES/Special Services Aid (+53.8 million), Private Excess Cost Aid (+25 million), and Building Aid (+204 million). The budget also provides $375 million for Universal Pre-K. Additional funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act for Title I ($454 million) and IDEA ($398 million) will enhance further New York’s investment in education.

The Senate Majority rejected proposed cuts of $49 million to community college branches of SUNY and CUNY, maintaining the investment in those systems at $3.9 billion: $2.5 billion for SUNY community colleges and $1.4 billion for CUNY community colleges. A proposed reduction to base aid for full-time equivalents at community colleges was also fully restored by the Senate.

The Senate Majority maintained opportunity programs such as HEOP and EOP at last year’s levels and restored $3.6 million in proposed cuts to the C-STEP program. The Senate and Assembly also restored $49.9 million in proposed cuts to the Tuition Assistant Program (TAP) to protect the ability of working adults to obtain an affordable quality education.

A significant new component of this year’s education budget is the establishment of NYHELPS, a college loan program that allocates $350 million each year to assist 45,000 resident students to enroll in a college or university in New York State.

Senator Adams states:
"Education funding must be a priority, even during the difficult economic crisis we currently face. Senate Democrats have worked hard to fund education fully, ensuring that our young people, from pre-kindergarten through college, receive the high-quality education they deserve. We will not sacrifice the futures of the next generation of New Yorkers. By providing financing for the resources necessary for a solid education, we keep our eyes on the horizon as we prepare our children for the diverse and highly skilled jobs of the 21st century."