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A.J. Smith 1

A third-grade classroom at A.J. Smith Elementary School in Union Springs.

The Board of Regents joined a coalition of education groups in calling for a sizable state aid increase next year for New York school districts. 

The Regents on Monday called for a $2.1 billion state aid increase. It would include $1.66 billion more in foundation aid, which is the base aid provided to districts, a $410 million increase in reimbursement-based aid, $25 million more to expand career and technical education programs and $26 million for universal prekindergarten. 

Regents also urged the state to fully phase-in the foundation aid formula over three years. That's the basis of the $1.6 billion in foundation aid sought by the board. They want to see that amount given to districts annually for the next three years. 

"The Board of Regents and I believe that all children should have access to a high-quality education regardless of their race, where they live or where they go to school," Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said in a statement. 

Last week, the New York State Education Conference Board consisting of several stakeholders, including the New York State United Teachers union and the state School Boards Association, suggested a $2.2 billion education aid increase. The coalition's proposal was similar to what the Regents outlined. The groups called for $1.31 billion in additional foundation aid and $400 million more for reimbursement-based aid. 

NYSUT praised the Regents' proposal. In a statement, union President Andy Pallotta claimed it's a reflection of the investment needed to boost the state's public education system.

"We welcome the Regents' strong, ongoing support for a significant new investment in public education — one that would enable our school districts from Long Island to Buffalo to better meet students' growing needs," Pallotta said.

The education groups and Regents traditionally request large state aid increases, but the actual amount provided in the state budget usually falls below the proposed levels. 

E.J. McMahon, research director at the Empire Center for Public Policy, analyzed the proposals Monday and wrote that the aid hikes would "consume virtually all allowable added state spending." He referred to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's self-imposed 2 percent state spending cap, which the state attempts to abide by in budget negotiations. 

There are other factors that could affect the state aid allocation. There is a projected budget deficit of $402 million the state must close this year, and McMahon also noted the stock market trend which could lead to a decline in state tax revenues. 

McMahon also panned the push by the Education Conference Board and the Regents calling for a "full phase-in" of the foundation aid formula. This refers to the 2007 Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit and ongoing claims that the state hasn't lived up to its commitment of funding New York schools. 

"The annual Regents and school lobby budget wish lists form the basis for spending pressure by ECB legislative allies who maintain (falsely) that the original school aid overhaul enacted in 2007 by then-Governor Eliot Spitzer was a 'promise' the state has repeatedly broken since the Great Recession," McMahon wrote. 

Cuomo will release his executive budget proposal next month. The budget plan will include his proposal for state school aid. State lawmakers will release their own proposals in early 2019.

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