Fwd: Constitutional Scorecard: Does NY Budget Uphold Students' Rights?
Sent: 4/8/2013 4:02:26 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: Constitutional Scorecard: Does NY Budget Uphold Students' Rights?
The Campaign for Educational Equity releases a constitutional scorecard of New York's 2013-14 budget.The Campaign for Educational Equity champions the right of all children to a meaningful educational opportunity.
State Aid for Education:
A Constitutional Scorecard of the EnactedAPRIL 8, 2013
2013-14 State Budget
The legislature has now enacted and the governor has signed into law the 2013-14 state budget. The good news is that this is the best education budget in five years: It provides over $1 billion in new state aid for education and an average 4.7% increase in core foundation aid for school districts. Moreover, the budget breaches the statutory cap that limited increases in state aid to the percentage growth in personal income for the previous year—a device that we have repeatedly insisted is unconstitutional—and exceeds it by over $300 million. As the Citizens Budget Commission put it, “The cap is now broken…[and] this school aid genie is likely to be hard to cram back in the bottle.“
The bad news is that state funding for education is still unconstitutional. The additional funding may repair some of the extensive damage inflicted on the educational opportunities of students throughout New York State by chronic underfunding since 2009; however, even with the new funding, total foundation funding is still more than $4 billion below the amount the state legislature determined, in the wake of the Court of Appeals decision in CFE v. State of New York, was necessary to provide all students the opportunity for a “sound basic education.” And a $1.64 billion “gap elimination adjustment” is still in place—an acknowledgment that students’ needs have been set aside because the state is not prepared to appropriate the necessary funds. Moreover, proper implementation of the Common Core standards, the Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR), and other state mandates will put additional financial pressure on schools and school districts; at the same time, the maintenance of a cap on the tax revenues that most local school districts can raise will limit their ability to respond to these pressures.
Despite this one-year, partial reprieve, the fundamental problems created by years of budget cuts, continuing escalations of health, pension, and other costs, and a virtual depletion of reserve funds in many districts still remain. Many schools, particularly those serving large numbers of students from low-income households, will still be unable to provide their students with educational essentials, including many necessities that schools are mandated by the state to provide.1
The SCORECARD: How Much Progress Toward Constitutional Compliance Did the State Achieve in the 2013-14 Budget?
Over the past year, we have implored the governor, the governor’s education reform commission, and the legislature to begin the necessary actions to move the state school funding system into constitutional compliance. In addition, we recommended they take a number of interim steps in the 2013-14 budget. Here is a brief scorecard on how the provisions of the actual enacted budget compare with our interim recommendations:
Recommendation 1: Provide a $1.3 Billion Sound Basic Education Down Payment Package That Directs Necessary Funds to High-Needs Districts
Actual Enacted Budget—Moderate Progress: The legislature has increased foundation and formula aids by $937 million by accepting the governor’s original $611 million aid increase, converting his recommendation for a $200 fiscal-stabilization fund into a gap-elimination-adjustment reduction, and adding another $125 million to his foundation-funding/gap-elimination proposal. In addition, changes were made to the method for calculating local district wealth that will provide more equity to many high-needs districts; the methodologies used for reductions in the gap elimination adjustment were also more favorable to high-needs districts than in the past. Unfortunately, this methodology, which creates ten incomprehensible funding tiers, is not transparent. Despite this increase, the budget does not provide sufficient funding to support proper implementation of the new Common Core, APPR and Response to Intervention (RTI) mandates, and $100 million in funding that could have been used for these or other high-priority purposes was used to continue the governor’s failed competitive grant program for management efficiencies and improved outcomes, and for tax relief for “high-tax” but low-needs school districts.
Recommendation 2: Fund the Governor’s Limited New Initiatives for Full-Day Prekindergarten, Extended Learning Time, and Community Schools.
Actual Enacted Budget—Good Progress: Accepting the governor’s recommendations, the legislature has provided $75 million to initiate important new programs that, among other things, will expand access to full-day prekindergarten programs, provide increased learning time through extended-day or extended-year programs, and promote the creation of a new set of community schools. All of these programs are important aspects of a sound basic education, especially for students from low-income households. The governor’s education reform commission should develop practical proposals for expanding these programs to ensure the delivery of these comprehensive services to all students who need them.
Recommendation 3: Eliminate the APPR Penalty
Actual Enacted Budget—Slight Progress: Because their school districts and unions failed to enact an Annual Professional Performance Review plan by January 17, 2013, students in New York City and several small upstate districts were denied their state aid increases for 2012-13, a penalty that in New York City’s case amounts to $260 million. The legislature refused to revoke the penalty, even though it enacted legislation that will empower the commissioner of education to arbitrate and impose an APPR plan on New York City and its unions by June 1, 2013, if they do not reach an agreement by then. The legislature did, however, reject the governor’s proposal that the $260 million be subtracted from the base for calculating funding for New York City for 2013-14 and every year thereafter. At the present time, the state is precluded from actually imposing the penalty because of a preliminary injunction the state supreme court has issued in Aristy-Farer v. State of New York.
Recommendation 4: Take Immediate Steps to Improve Cost-Effectiveness
Actual Enacted Budget—No Progress: Although the governor and other leaders have long talked about eliminating unnecessary mandates and taking other steps to promote cost efficiency, little has actually been done in this regard over the past five years. We have recommended reforms of special education, expanding BOCES authority to promote regional programming and cost sharing, eliminating costly and inequitable aspects of the building-aid formula, and revising the system for reimbursing transportation costs. The legislature took no significant action in any of these areas.
Necessary State Action for Achieving Constitutional Compliance
The most significant gap in the new budget is the state’s continuing failure to meet its constitutional obligation to provide all students the opportunity for a sound basic education even in times of fiscal constraint. Simply put, the state has no long-range plan or vision for how to ensure that, now and in the future, schools and school districts can deliver the resources, services, and supports students need to meet challenging state standards, although the state’s leaders continue to ramp up their calls for all students to graduate “college and career ready.” As we have repeatedly stressed, the necessary constitutional actions that the governor, the legislature, and the Regents must take—but have failed to take since the 2008 recession—are as follows:
For the latest updates on educational equity issues and how you can contribute to the cause, connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.1. This has been documented in two reports recently issued by the Campaign:Essential Resources: The Constitutional Requirements for Providing All Students in New York State the Opportunity for a Sound Basic Education(Dec. 2012) and Deficient Resources: An Analysis of the Availability of Basic Educational Resources in High Needs Schools in Eight New York State School Districts (Dec. 2012). Both reports are available at www.equitycampaign.org.
- Identify the essential resources, services, and supports that must be available to all students to comply with the constitution and to meet statutory and regulatory requirements;
- Reduce costs without violating children’s constitutional rights by eliminating unnecessary mandates, revamping ineffective requirements, and providing school districts clear guidance on how to maximize cost efficiency and cost effectiveness while safeguarding constitutional educational services;
- Develop and implement an up-to-date methodology to determine the actual costs of providing all students with the essential resources for a sound basic education in a cost-effective manner that properly weighs student needs and concentration-of-poverty factors;
- Revise the state funding formulas to ensure that all schools receive sufficient resources; and
- Create state and local accountability mechanisms for sound basic education and ensure enforcement by the state education department and other entities and the means and capacity to carry out those responsibilities.
Michael A. RebellExecutive Director
Campaign for Educational Equity
email us at equity@...
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