Vast Majority Of School District Budgets Pass

Initial reports show the vast majority of school district budgets put before voters on Tuesday have been approved, according to the state teachers union and the state school boards association.

All told, an estimated 99 percent of budgets were approved, with 570 in total being backed. Only three — budgets in DeRuyter, Pittsford and East Ramapo — were voted down.

“This year’s annual budget vote is a ringing endorsement of public education. Parents and community members again showed the appreciation and respect they have for their local public schools and the educators who work tirelessly to deliver a superb public education to our state’s children,” said Andy Pallotta, the president of the New York State United Teachers union.

School districts have an average tax levy increase of 1.48 percent for the 2017-18 school year.

“This year, many school boards overcame rising costs in order to deliver budgets that stayed within the state’s property tax cap,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. “Smart budgeting, community input and an increase in state education funding helped districts win strong voter support. Some districts were even able to restore positions lost during leaner budgeting years.”

Teachers Union Prez: Medicaid Cuts Could Cost Buffalo Big

From the Morning Memo:

It’s still unclear how much funding the Buffalo Public School District stands to lose for special education services, should the U.S. Senate pass the American Health Care Act approved last week by the House without significant changes.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that a restructuring of the Medicaid program would decrease direct federal spending by about $880 billion over the next decade, but the latest version of the House bill has not yet been formally scored.

Districts across the state and country are reimbursed for some services for students with disabilities through the program. When we reached out last week to find how much exactly that amount is in Buffalo, the district referred us to Kinney Management, the vendor that processes its reimbursements.

Kinney indicated yesterday afternoon that it was working to answer our questions. In the meantime, the president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation was willing to take a guess.

“It could cost hundreds of thousands,” Phil Rumore said. “It could cost $1 million and the worst part about it is that, aside from costing the money, it’s going to cost the kids the services that they need.”

“We’re supposed to care about people. We’re supposed to care about kids. When you cut back funding for these programs, who are you hurting?”

Rumore said the cash-strapped district already struggles to afford services for students with special needs.

He noted that when the federal government passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act more than 40 years ago, it committed to help districts cover a third of the cost. But in recent years, he said, a disproportionate burden has fallen on districts like Buffalo.

“These services are expensive,” Rumore said. “You have a child that has been diagnosed, that has to be in a class with six other students, a teacher and an aide. That’s expensive but the kids need the help.”

The BTF president said he’s not sure yet how worried he should be about the AHCA. While he’s no fan of the bill, he expects the Senate to make major changes to the legislation – if it even passes at all.

“I would expect none of our senators would vote for the (American Health Care Act), Rumore said. “As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to that bill that the house passed, it’s a disgrace.”

SUNY Appoints Its New Chancellor

The Board of Regents at the State University of New York on Monday formally elected Kristina Johnson as the sprawling system’s new chancellor, replacing the departing Nancy Zimpher.

“Throughout her distinguished career, Kristina Johnson has not only been a faculty member, administrator, and visionary in higher education but also a dedicated public servant, national energy czar, successful entrepreneur, and an acclaimed inventor,” said SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall. “We are thrilled to welcome her to SUNY, where her range of experience will enable her to leverage the incredible work of our 64 colleges and universities.”

Johnson holds dozens of patents, and is the current founder and chief executive officer of Cube Hydro Partners, LLC, which develops hydroelectric generation facilities. She has served as dean of Duke University’s engineering school and served in the Obama administration as a deputy energy secretary.

“The State University of New York is a complex, captivating system like no other in higher education, and the opportunity to serve as its chancellor is the highest honor of my career,” Johnson said.

She is the 13th person to serve as chancellor of the SUNY system, which oversees and administers 64 public university and college campuses.

“From her groundbreaking research and her experience at some of the nation’s finest academic institutions to her service as Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy, she has a proven track record of leadership and innovation,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “I applaud the Board of Trustees for this outstanding selection. New York is leading the way in public higher education, and Dr. Johnson will help maintain the upward trajectory of one of the nation’s largest systems of higher education.”

Vast Majority Of School Districts Propose Budgets Within Cap

Ninety-eight percent of the state’s school districts have submitted proposed budgets that plan to live within the state’s cap on property tax increases, according to an analysis by the Association of School Business Officials.

The cap, linked to the rate of inflation, stands at 1.26 percent statewide with some exceptions.

Based on information sent to the association, 15 school districts have proposed overriding the cap, the lowest since the cap took effect in the 2011-12 school year.

School districts and other education advocates have complained the cap is difficult to override, as well as tying it to inflation, which has been largely flat over the last six years.

“School district leaders continue to manage their finances in a prudent and cost effective manner that reflects community priorities at a cost that the public can support,” said Michael Borges, the group’s executive director. “School districts hope the Legislature will support a state Budget that includes a combination of mandate relief and increased aid that will allow them to provide a sound basic education to all students in the state.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152 billion spending plan includes a $960 million increase in education aid.

1488809905_Tax Cap 2017 Report by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Report: Per Pupil Spending In NY Schools Tops $22K

A report released Friday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found the median per pupil spending in New York schools stood at $22,658, but the average cost of educating a student varies by region.

The report, which analyzed regional education spending and trends, found the highest median of per-student spending in New York was in the mid-Hudson Valley, where schools spent $26,636. In western New York, it was the lowest, $19,776 per pupil during the 2014-15 school year.

Schools have over the last decade have seen their spending rise by 1.4 percent when adjusted for inflation, or $3.9 billion. Overall, spending outside of New York City school districts rose from $27.1 billion in 2004-05 to $37.6 billion in 2014-15.

“Investments in New York’s public schools are vital at both the state and local level,” DiNapoli said. “By examining regional comparisons and trends in school district revenues, expenditures and student demographics, we can better inform the decisions of state lawmakers, education stakeholders and taxpayers.”

Not surprisingly, the report found wealthier districts relied more heavily on property tax revenue. On Long Island, schools there draw 68 percent of their revenue from property taxes and other locally based sources. Meanwhile, in rural areas like the Mohawk Valley and the North Country, schools there received a third of their funding from local sources like the property tax.

The full report can be found here.

Report: Average School Pension Tops $68K

The average pension collected by a teacher or school administrator who has retired last year was $68,334, according to the Empire Center for New York State Policy.

The think tank’s public sector payroll analysis found the average public school employee who is eligible for a pension of more than $100,000 has doubled over the last six years — from 1,255 to 3,010.

Most of those six-figure pension benefits are for downstate school districts in the New York City metropolitan region.

Statewide, the top pension earner is James Feltman, who received $326,394. He retired from the Commack Union district in 2010.

The new data can be found here.

AQE: NY Violates Children’s Human Rights With School Funding

Hundreds of education advocates will descend on the state Capitol today for the first official Lobby Day of the 2017 session.

They’re calling on the governor and legislative leaders to commit to a two-year full phase-in of the $4.3 billion worth of Foundation Aid that is owed to schools as a result of the 10-year-old Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement.

To accompany their lobby day, which is expected to draw some 500 parents and students to Albany, the Alliance for Quality Education has released a hard-hitting video that casts the school funding disparity in starkly racial terms.

In the video, an advance copy of which was provided to the SoP, AQE’s advocacy director Zakiyah Ansari says:

“We have asked children to shrink themselves, to be less than they could be, because the state won’t fund their potential.”

“Across the state, the constitutional rights of children have been violated. We have witnessed systemic racism and economic oppression that has rocked our public education system.”

“Governor Cuomo, you and the Senate Majority have chosen to continue the violation of the human rights of our children by not funding our schools.”

In an email accompanying the video, which is being blasted out to AQE supporters this morning, the organization’s legislative director, Jasmine Gripper, says fully funding the CFE settlement is a matter of “racial justice.”

She notes that 58 percent of the money in question is “owed to black and brown students,” adding: “(T)he failure to provide the funding perpetuates systemic racism in education.”

The AQE has launched a letter writing campaign to Cuomo, which warns of an impending effort by the incoming Trump administration to “strip resources from our students.”

That’s something both the NYC teachers union and the AFT have been sounding the alarm on as the president-elect’s Education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos, faces a confirmation hearing in D.C. tomorrow.

The effort by AQE comes as Cuomo has been trying to position himself as the antidote to Trump and a champion of progressive values in what is widely viewed as preparation for a potential White House run in 2020.

Liberal Democrats and their progressive organizing allies have been pressuring Cuomo on a number of fronts, raising the specter of Trump and calling on the governor to be a “true” leader by embracing their causes. Now we can official add education funding to that list. 

AQE: $2.1B Is Nice, But Why Not More?

The Alliance for Quality Education on Monday cheered the $2.1 billion spending increase for education as proposed by the state Board of Regents, which also includes a $1.47 billion hike in foundation aid.

But the AQE also in a statement said the $2.1 billion is merely a “good start” that should see foundation aid boosted by $2 billion alone.

“The Regents proposal is a good start but the state needs to get real about finally delivering a quality education for every child; this will require at least at least $2 billion in new Foundation Aid this year,” says Jasmine Gripper, Legislative Director & Statewide Education Advocate at the Alliance for Quality Education.

“The Regents are right to call for full-day Pre-K funding because two-thirds of four-year-olds in most of the state are denied full-day Pre-K. Community schools were left out of this plan, despite the success of these schools at improving student outcomes. We need the Governor and the Legislature to fund community schools, not abandon them.

Education spending is second only to health care costs when it comes to the state budget and is typically one of the largest perennial battles over spending in the state budget each year.

Over the last several budget cycles, there have been increases in education aid, but those hikes have fallen short of what the group has sought.

“The biggest problem facing New York’s students is the failure of Governor Cuomo and the Republican State Senate to deliver adequate educational opportunity for students in high-needs urban and rural communities,” Gripper said.

“Fully funding the Foundation Aid formula would deliver that funding and it would significantly improve educational outcomes. Groundbreaking research shows that a sustained 10 percent increase in funding results in an 11 percent increase in graduation rates, greater success college and almost a 10 percent increase in earnings for students as adults.”

NYSASBO Proposes Update to Foundation Aid Formula

Education advocates are calling for school districts across the state to be funded the $3.8 billion they are owed in Foundation Aid money.

In addition to having that money funded to schools over the span of 3 years, the New York State Association of School Business Officials also proposes an update to the foundation aid formula, which is nearly a decade old. Meanwhile, state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cumoo are facing the headwinds of decreasing revenue from the state’s personal income tax, while school districts continue to grapple with the state’s cap on property tax increases, which has been more or less flat since it took effect in 2012.

Michael Borges discussed the proposal and the challenges facing schools in the coming year on Capital Tonight.

Paladino To Represent Trump At National Education Forum

From the memo:

Buffalo Public School Board member Carl Paladino, who continues to be a staunch defender of Donald Trump even as fellow Republicans shy away from the increasingly controversial presidential nominee, is taking to the air – literally – to represent his candidate in Florida. 

The honorary co-chair of Trump’s New York campaign will act as a surrogate for the candidate at the Council of the Great City Schools 60th annual fall conference, which is being held this week in Miami.

Paladino said more than 1,000 big city school leaders from across the country will be there. The debate, moderated by Dan Rather, will also be live-streamed at 2:30 p.m.

The Buffalo businessman will likely talk about privatizing public schools – a focus of his since becoming a school board member.

“The only solution for dysfunctional urban school districts which promote the urban cycle of poverty is to dismantle them and replace them with a competitive system based in charters, vouchers and tax credits,” Paladino said.

The surrogate for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is Mildred Otero, a former adviser for the nominee when she was a U.S. senator for New York. Otero currently is the vice-president of Leadership for Educational Equity.

The panel also includes superintendents from Miami-Dade County and Philadelphia and a school board vice president from Cincinnati.