Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration is pushing for local school districts to disclose how and where they are spending money -- suggesting funding inequalities on the local level will be revealed in the process.
"Once we give the money to the school district, we have no sense as to where that money is going," said New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica. "So in order to really provide money to the schools, the buildings that actually need it, we need the transparency, we need to understand where the money is going."
Cuomo and his top advisors on Monday met for several hours with black clergy and community leaders tied to charter schools. Emerging from the meeting, the clergy members noted charter schools have their own disclosure requirements that traditional public schools do not have.
"We have a right to know what districts are receiving and to how many dollars each student is receiving," said Pastor C. Nathan Edwers of the Friendship Worship Center.
Cuomo's emphasis on education funding inequity comes as the Senate and Assembly this week prepare their own budget proposals. At the same time, Cuomo may face a primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon, an actress and public education advocated who has worked with the Alliance For Quality Education. The group has pushed Cuomo to spend more on high-needs schools.
"This is just another excuse from Governor Andrew Cuomo for why it is he absolutely refusing to fairly and adequately fund high need schools in the state," said the Alliance's Billy Easton.
For school districts, the fight is a tricky one.
"What are you going to do? Move money from underperforming school A to underperforming school B?" asked Tim Kremer with the New York State School Boards Association. "That doesn't seem to be a good solution."
The new push could stem from Cuomo's feud with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his education policies. At the same time, the move appears to be a speeding up of a school district spending disclosure law that's being phased in over several years.
"We have locally elected school officials who have forever been responsible for seeing to it that the monies received into the district from the state and federal level are brought into a budget that allocates resources where they are needed most," Kremer said.
Cuomo's budget hikes education aid by $769 million. Lawmakers are expected to call for more.