We’ve compiled state and federal information to answer your questions about the New York education budget.
STATE FUNDING ISSUES
This year, New York State’s budget situation and budget negotiations have been complicated (but also made much easier) by the large infusion of federal aid that will be coming to the State as a result of the most recent relief bill. If you are unfamiliar with the budget process for New York State, here is a quick breakdown of how it typically goes:
- The governor releases the proposed executive budget in January.
- Shortly after that executive budget is released, the New York State Senate and Assembly hold joint public hearings throughout the end of January and the month of February.
- By mid-March, each house of the Legislature releases a response to the executive budget with a proposed counter-budget.
How do the state senate and assembly education budget proposals compare?
|State Senate Budget Resolution||Assembly Budget Proposal|
|Increase of $3.5B over the executive budget proposal||Increase of $3.2B over the executive budget proposal|
|State funding is supplemented with relief funds||State funding is supplemented with relief funds|
|Increase foundation aid by $1.37B||Increase foundation aid by $1.4B|
|Fully phase in foundation aid over 3 years||Fully phase in foundation aid over 3 years|
|N/A||Denies executive proposal to cut charter facilities aid to NYC|
Back in January, we criticized Gov. Cuomo’s executive budget proposal for its severe austerity measures and his plan to supplant state education funding with federal dollars – federal dollars that were intended for COVID-19 relief. With the passing of the fed’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARP Act), the Governor can no longer make a case for his previously proposed cuts to New York’s education sector.
FEDERAL AID ISSUES
According to the U.S. Dept. of Education, the ARP Act provides the State of New York with $8.9 billion to help schools reopen. Allocations to states are in exact proportion to Title 1 funding that states receive under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. New York City, the State’s biggest school district, is expected to receive roughly half of the ARP Act funds coming to New York at $4.5 billion.
Thanks to the influx of federal funds, there is no longer any reason to entertain the Governor’s proposed cuts to education funding. Indeed, the State Legislature has proposed deeper investment in the education system. Perhaps most notably, both the State Senate and the Assembly have proposed to fully phase in Foundation Aid over the next 3 years. Additionally, both houses have proposed restoring the $1.35 billion in cuts to state aid in the 2020-2021 budget and using federal relief funds to supplement (rather than supplant) state aid.
The main question now is what should we do with billions of dollars in supplementary funding? Reema Amin, of Chalkbeat, reported that several education advocates and stakeholders have big ideas for the relief dollars going to New York State and New York City. The United Federal of Teachers wants $1 billion to fund teams at each school that would provide academic intervention for students and assist with mental health needs. They also call for a pilot program that would reduce class size at 100 high-need schools and result in the hiring of 1,500 more teachers. The Alliance for Quality Education is calling for investment in socio-emotional learning and smaller class sizes. They also want a public-facing spending tracker that would provide clarity on how the state government is spending its funds. Education Trust-NY has called for investment in mental health through restorative summer programming that includes both academic and cultural enrichment for students. They have asked that NYC find out how many families want their children back in school buildings and proposed that the City offer Saturday enrichment programs. Class Size Matters and NYC Kids PAC want NYC to use funds to reduce class size and achieve a social worker to student ratio of 1:250. They ask that NYC hire 10,000 new teachers.
Based on the spending requirements established by the ARP Act, it does seem like any of these ideas are possible. Here’s a breakdown of the fed’s guidelines for using relief funds.
|State Education Agency (SEA) Requirements||Local Education Agency (LEA) Requirements|
|Subgrant at least 90% to school districts (includes charter schools if they are also LEAs)|
Allocate funds to LEAs within 60 days of receiving funds from the fed
Set aside at least 5% for addressing learning loss directly or through subgrants or contracts
Set aside at least 1% for summer enrichment programs
Set aside at least 1% for afterschool programs
May reserve, at most, 0.5% for administrative costs and the remainder for any emergency needs related to the pandemic
Must return any unspent funds to the Secretary of Education within 1 year of receipt
|Must publish plan to reopen schools for in-person instruction within 30 days of receiving funding (unclear if this means all schools and it is also unclear if reopened schools need to be at full capacity)|
Must use at least 20% to address learning loss
The remaining funds may be used for any activity that school districts would typically be able to fund with their budgets
State Education Department Requirements:
- Subgrant at least 90% to school districts.
- Allocate funds to local education agencies within 60 days of receiving funds.
- Set-aside at least 5% for addressing learning loss.
- Set-aside at least 1% for summer enrichment programs.
- Set aside at least 1% for afterschool programs.
- States may reserve, at most, 0.5% for administrative costs and the remainder for any emergency needs related to the pandemic.
- Return any unspent funds to the Secretary of Education within 1 year of receipt.
Local Education Agency (LEA) Requirements:
- Publish plan to reopen schools for in-person instruction within 30 days.
- Use at least 20% to address learning loss
- The remaining funds may be used for any activity that school districts would typically be able to fund with their budgets (a full list of activities are listed at the end of this post).
This is good news for LEAs. The requirements for spending relief funds are vague enough that school districts can take this opportunity to make great improvements to their schools so long as it addresses learning loss. This means that in addition to addressing mental health needs and academic disparities, districts can also invest in addressing the civic learning loss that has resulted from the pandemic.
List of eligible activities that LEAs can use relief funds for: 
“(A) Any activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
(B) Any activity authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
(C) Any activity authorized by the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act.
(D) Any activity authorized by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.
(E) Coordination of preparedness and response efforts of local educational agencies with State, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments, and other relevant agencies, to improve coordinated responses among such entities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.
(F) Activities to address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth, including how outreach and service delivery will meet the needs of each population.
(G) Developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of local educational agencies.
(H) Training and professional development for staff of the local educational agency on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases.
(I) Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities of a local educational agency, including buildings operated by such agency.
(J) Planning for, coordinating, and implementing activities during long-term closures, including providing meals to eligible students, providing technology for online learning to all students, providing guidance for carrying out requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and ensuring other educational services can continue to be provided consistent with all Federal, State, and local requirements.
(K) Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students who are served by the local educational agency that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including low-income students and children with disabilities, which may include assistive technology or adaptive equipment.
(L) Providing mental health services and supports, including through the implementation of evidence-based full-service community schools.
(M) Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental afterschool programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months and addressing the needs of low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.
(N) Addressing learning loss among students, including low-income students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care, of the local educational agency, including by—(i) administering and using high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable, to accurately assess students’ academic progress and assist educators in meeting students’ academic needs, including through differentiating instruction; (ii) implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students; (iii) providing information and assistance to parents and families on how they can effectively support students, including in a distance learning environment; and (iv) tracking student attendance and improving student engagement in distance education.
(O) School facility repairs and improvements to enable operation of schools to reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards, and to support student health needs.
(P) Inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrade projects to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and non-mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification and other air cleaning, fans, control systems, and window and door repair and replacement.
(Q) Developing strategies and implementing public health protocols including, to the greatest extent practicable, policies in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the reopening and operation of school facilities to effectively maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff.
(R) Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies and continuing to employ existing staff of the local educational agency.”
 LEAs may address learning loss through “implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs, and ensure that such interventions respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on the student subgroups described in section 1111(b)(2)(B)(xi) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 6311(b)(2)(B)(xi)), students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care…”
 Extracted from ARP Act: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1319/text#toc-HC9CE46A721204EB081A88ACD8FB287D5