It’s taken 12 years, but thanks to a federal windfall and strong tax receipts, Gov. Kathy Hochul's budget includes the second year of a Foundation Aid increase.
“The Senate and the Assembly had to put their foot down with Gov. Cuomo last year to get an agreement to fully fund Foundation Aid,” state Sen. Shelley Mayer, chair of the Senate Education Committee, told Capital Tonight. “It was huge victory and we are thrilled Gov. Hochul is continuing down that path.”
A little history.
For years, the “broken promise” of Foundation Aid has been a rallying cry for education advocates. Foundation Aid is a formula through which state aid is distributed to low-wealth schools. It was created in the wake of the 2006 Campaign for Fiscal Equity court case which held that all students were guaranteed a “sound basic education."
The following year, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer overhauled what had been a politically-driven funding process for schools. The complex distribution formula that emerged was informed by census data, rates of poverty, income and property wealth, among many other data points.
The practical result was an increase of $5.5 billion in state aid to public schools phased in over four years.
While the funding was delivered in the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 budgets, the state was hit by the Great Recession a year later, and the promise of Foundation Aid was broken, with schools still “owed” $4.3 billion.
Under the agreement reached with Cuomo and supported by Hochul, schools will receive 80% of their expected Foundation Aid this year; next year they will receive 100%.
Capital Tonight asked Mayer if updating the Foundation Aid formula was on this year’s agenda.
“There is a lot of formula data that needs to be updated, including the fact that it’s 2000 Census data that is the basis (of it) and other things that are just no longer the way we should measure need,” she said. “The State Education Department is going to ask to fund a study to look at how to update it.”
Mayer identified two areas for which she would like to see increased funding: Career and technical education, and child care, which the governor invested $1.4 billion.
“We will look at how much revenue is there…the fact is, New York is doing well financially even in the face of all the challenges, but if we don’t invest heavily in child care or infants to 4-year olds, we are missing the boat,” Mayer said. “Frankly, working parents, particularly working mothers, are at wit’s end without access to child care.”