School Officials Push For Increased State Aid
The state School Boards Association and Association of School Business Officials of New York are lobbying for increased aid with a new report, “A Lost Generation.”
The report, based on a survey of school business officials, reveals that multi-year state aid reductions would leave nearly four in 10 school districts either financially insolvent or unable to provide a sound, basic education to their students.
Specifically, 25% of all school districts responding to the survey would be unable to pay their bills, including payroll, if the state cuts public education funding by 20% this year and state aid cuts continue for the next two to three years. Another 13% of school districts would become educationally insolvent, meaning they would be unable to provide legally required educational programs. In the nearer term, 64% of districts would need to make non-instructional staffing reductions in 2020-21, while 60% would need to make cuts to instructional staff.
“The consequences of a three-year period of sustained education cuts are potentially catastrophic for public education in New York,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Robert Schneider. “Federal stimulus funds would help stave off painful cuts, but lawmakers in Washington have yet to provide additional education funding despite the crying need – and there is no telling how many young people will miss out on their constitutional right to a sound public education and on the opportunities to build meaningful lives and careers as adults.”
“Public schools stand at the brink of a fiscal cliff. Federal action is critically needed to prevent significant mid-year cuts that would devastate public education for a generation. This is the most important moment for educational equity since the creation of Foundation Aid,” said Andrew Van Alstyne, director of education and research for ASBO New York.
If districts ultimately receive just 80 cents for every state aid dollar they built into their budgets for this 2020-21 school year, a large majority of business officials (79%) said their districts would dig deeper into fund balances to help cover their costs. Additional use of district reserves and reduction of sports or other extra-curricular activities are other strategies cited by a majority of business officials.
While state revenue declines have resulted in the withholding of state aid for the first two months of the fiscal year, New York school districts have incurred an average of $500,000 to cover costs related to COVID-19 in order to open schools this semester – for either in-person or remote instruction, according to the report.
Already this year, districts reported spending an average of $219 more per student for expenses directly related to the COVID-19 epidemic, such as masks and other personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and computers or other digital technology.
The strategies most commonly cited by business officials to cover these expenses were shifting money from other areas of the budget and digging deeper into their fund balances (both were cited by 71% of respondents).