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State Aid Sees Ups & Downs

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $137 billion spending plan will increase education aid by $807 million for the 2014-2015 school year, but school officials say it will still put them up against the wall. 


“Clearly the district is disappointed with the state aid allocations,” said Island Trees Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Murphy. “Although the Governor's budget increased school aid three percent, this figure didn’t materialize in Island Trees.” 


Based on the preliminary budget figures, the Island Trees Union-Free School District will receive $158,000 less than last year, or a total $14,102,719—a decrease of 1.11 percent.


“With all the new Common Core testing and student accountability concerns, one would guess the state would try to provide extra resources for these transition years.  After all, we’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in new textbooks and materials to ensure success with this new state initiative,” Murphy said. “Furthermore,  Governor Cuomo proposed funding for Universal Pre-K. I have difficulty understanding this concept since school districts throughout the state are struggling to maintain their K-12 programs and to add universal pre-k makes little sense.”  


However, not every school district in Levittown saw a decrease in state aid funding. The state executive budget estimates that the Levittown Public School District will receive $2,354,665 more than last year, or a total $48,904,343—an increase of 5.06 percent. 


Levittown School District officials could not be reached for comment as of press time. 


Using the preliminary budget numbers, the state Department of Education has calculated estimates of how much state aid will be allocated to each individual school district. Of the $807 million increase, the state education department estimates a $24.2 million increase for school districts in Nassau County. The $807 million proposed in the executive budget drives an average increase of nearly $300 per student. 


The executive budget also allocates $1.5 billion, over a five-year period, to fund a statewide universal full-day pre-K program, $720 million over five years to expand after-school programs, and proposes a $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act to ensure students have access to the latest technology needed to compete on the global stage.  


And Island Trees’ Murphy  is not alone in his disdain for the proposed state aid increases. According to Timothy G. Kremer, the executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, the $807 million increase statewide would leave schools unable to continue their current programs and services without exceeding the tax cap.


“While the governor’s budget contains many laudable issues such as state-funded universal prekindergarten and after-school programs, his state aid allocation falls way short of the mark,” Kremer said. “We appreciate the governor’s leadership in putting forward a $2 billion proposal for technology and capital costs associated with full-day prekindergarten expansion, but hope that the Legislature will increase the state’s investment in general support for public schools.”


Since the executive budget has not yet been approved by state lawmakers, the amount of state aid is subject to change.