A coalition of New York education groups are requesting a multi-billion state aid increase for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
The New York State Educational Conference Board on Thursday called for a $2.2 billion state aid hike. The proposed increase includes $1.31 billion for foundation aid, which is the base funding for school districts, and $400 million for expense-based reimbursements. The board also requested $500 million in funding for support services, school safety and other education-related priorities.
The Educational Conference Board consists of six organizations, including New York State United Teachers, the state's leading teachers' union, and the New York State School Boards Association.
A $2.2 billion aid increase, the Educational Conference Board contends, would help school districts fund existing programs and respond to the needs of students.
The board noted that over the past decade, the number of students receiving free and reduced lunch rose by 15 percent, and the number of English language learners increased by 18 percent. There are 14 percent more students with disabilities.
Despite these increases, the board claimed that the state is behind on its foundation aid commitments by about $4 billion.
"The premise of foundation aid is that school districts will have the resources to meet student needs and provide them with a quality education," said John Yagielski, the board's chair. "The changes in the last decade underscore the importance of a foundation aid formula that is funded and functioning in our state."
The board also recommended other education-related changes. In a paper released Thursday, the coalition called for updating the foundation aid formula. This has been discussed in state government for years, but the formula hasn't been adjusted.
Some of the reforms suggested by the board include updating the costing out study to determine the appropriate aid amount per student, update student need factors and restructure the regional cost index.
Changes to the property tax cap were also recommended by the board. The tax cap has been in place since 2011 and limits property tax levy growth to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.
One of the board's ideas is to establish an "allowable levy growth factor" of at least 2 percent and adopt adjustments related to BOCES capital improvements and properties with payment in lieu of tax agreements.
Education aid has long been one of the major topics of discussion in state budget negotiations. But the 2019 session will be different. For the first time in a decade, Democrats will control both houses of the state Legislature. Democrats received significant backing from educational groups, especially NYSUT, in the most recent election.
However, state legislative leaders will still need to negotiate with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has proposed billion dollar aid increases in past executive budget proposals.