We Must Prevent a Tale of Two Budgets
Dear Legislator, As a constituent who is supportive of public education, I am writing to ask for your support in ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality public education and that you work to prevent what has been called "A tale of two budgets," wherein some school districts face large cuts in state support of school funding, while others do not.
The 2021-22 New York State Executive Budget reduces state support for schools by over $600 million. The additional dollars that this "tale of two budgets," is based on are one-time federal funds that will not support public school programs in the long term.
The executive budget proposal slashes funding for a host of educational programs, including cuts to expense-based aids for public schools and a reduction in funds to many districts, referred to as the Local District Funding Adjustment (LDFA).
The executive budget proposal reduces support for services that benefit students, and eliminates important formulas including BOCES, Special Services, Transportation, Instructional Materials Aids and Charter School Transition Aid, among others. The elimination of these 11 aid formulas and a $700 million reduction in support for these programs will unquestionably harm our students.
Additionally, the state should enhance support for programs such as software and hardware aid in response to the disparities in remote learning opportunities we have witnessed over the past year. The elimination of the instructional aid formulas that assist districts in purchasing computer hardware and software fails to meet the important needs of our public school children.
The $1.3 billon Local District Funding Adjustment further reduces state support for school districts. The LDFA is used in the executive budget proposal to reduce state support for school districts. This action alone reduces equity, but the manner of the reduction compounds this inequity. The size of the LDFA for each district is the lesser of the STAR payment or the federal COVID-19 Supplement Stimulus Grant. These are inappropriate metrics to use in determining the size of the school aid cut in each district. STAR is a reimbursement to school districts for the loss of revenue from the STAR exemption that eligible owner-occupied home owners can receive. The level of STAR payments to a school district is not connected to the district's ability to pay or student-need levels and, therefore, should not be used to determine the level of school aid in a district. The calculation method of LDFA benefits the wealthiest school districts as they receive very little of the federal COVID-19 Stimulus grant and therefore their LDFA reduction is also small. Conversely, if a school district is not as wealthy or has more Title I students, the cut in state support is extremely large, increasing inequity in our educational system.
Proper funding, using federal money for its intended purpose (to supplement, not supplant state support) and enacting stable state revenue enhancers, will help ensure that students and their communities are provided the resources and services they need to learn and persevere during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Taking these actions now will allow our state and our schools to build back better. I would urge you to reject "a tale of two budgets," fight for the federal support for education to supplement, not supplant state support and enact revenue measures to help fund the programs and services our state desperately needs.
Thank you for your consideration of these important issues. I would appreciate a reply to my email. Sincerely,
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