State Senator John J. Bonacic (R/I/C - Mount Hope) called for the New York State Legislature to fully fund the school funding commitments made last year by adding $350 million in basic classroom operating aid, also called foundation aid to the proposed State budget.
Senator Bonacic said, "Foundation aid is the basic category of classroom operating aid that pays the State’s share of the costs of teachers, principals, books, educational programs, and enrichment activities such as tutoring and after school programs."
"Last year," Senator Bonacic continued, "The Legislature agreed upon a foundation aid formula that was not only equitable, but was supposed to be for multiple years so that school districts could count on what State foundation aid they would receive. Unfortunately, this year’s Executive Budget does not fulfill that promise and I am calling on my colleagues to continue that commitment."
Joining Senator Bonacic is Billy Easton, Executive Director of the statewide Alliance for Quality Education and a resident of the Town of Ulster, who said, "After years of public demand for full and fair school funding, the Governor and the Legislature finally enacted a multi-year commitment into law in 2007. We are pleased to join with Senator Bonacic in calling for the Legislature to restore the $350 million that was promised and has yet to be put into the State budget. Senator Bonacic has been a leader within the Senate Majority Conference in the effort to secure fair aid for our schools."
Carol Slotkin, a veteran Sullivan West teacher and a member of the Board of Directors of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) said, "Senator Bonacic gets it. Our efforts to raise standards and improve achievement - especially for those schools and students who have struggled under the burden of too few resources - depend on a continued strong investment of State funding." Slotkin continued, "The Senator clearly understands that local schools need this additional State investment to continue to close the achievement gap and to hold the line on property taxes. Additional State funding, not an artificial tax cap, is the best way to keep local schools strong, without burdening local property taxpayers."
The school funding reform enacted into law last year created a simplified and transparent formula to distribute classroom operating foundation aid. Last year’s reforms included a commitment to increase State foundation aid by $5.5 billion over four years. Based on the enacted formula for foundation aid this year, an increase of $1.24 billion had been projected by the Division of Budget. "The proposed budget only contains an $890 million increase for this year," stated Senator Bonacic.
Senator Bonacic said, "As a result of last year’s commitment, the school districts in Ulster County would stand to receive an additional $2.8 million, $11.5 million for Orange County schools, and $4.2 million for Sullivan County if the funding is restored. For example, with last year’s commitment, the Ellenville School District would receive the promised foundation aid totalling $1,678,040. This year, the Executive proposes providing Ellenville School District with $1,085,743; $592,297 less than promised."
Ellenville School Superintendent Lisa Wiles stated, "Senator Bonacic has been a great advocate for education funding and accountability in our region, particularly in Ellenville. Last year’s increase enabled us to implement new programs, strengthen existing ones and keep the tax levy increases to zero. With the economic climate today, any decrease in State aid is problematic."
"Every penny in State aid that does not come through as anticipated, results in reduced educational opportunity or higher property taxes," Senator Bonacic continued. "Neither is an appropriate option for the students of this State and the property owners that support our schools. All of our students deserve an equal educational opportunity."
"I am pleased to join with AQE, NYSUT, and Ellenville’s School Superintendent in calling for appropriate foundation aid for our schools and the fine tuning of the formula to guard against year-to-year fluctuations. This statewide reform was the appropriate action for the Legislature to take last year and we must keep that promise," concluded Senator Bonacic.