New York state Senate Republicans unveiled a legislative package Tuesday aimed to counteract changes to education funding outlined by Gov. Kathy Hochul in her executive budget proposal earlier this month.

The governor is proposing a $35.3 billion school aid package that includes a 2.1% jump, or a $507 million increase, in Foundation Aid, the primary school funding formula, but despite that increase, as well as aid tied to expenses, some view that as a cut from last year.

The governor also wants to do away with a provision called “Save Harmless,” which essentially ensures school districts receive no less state aid than they did the year before. The GOP conference called that measure “misplaced priorities.”

The Republicans also criticized the changes to education funding while tying it to the governor’s proposed $2.4 billion to help house tens of thousands of migrants without homes and help them apply for asylum or work.

“The Governor’s budget is yet another example of the complete disregard for New York families and taxpayers. $4.3 billion over two years will be used to address the migrant crisis that was caused by open borders and sanctuary city policies supported by Democrats. At the same time, they are stripping millions of dollars from rural and suburban school districts,” state Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt said in a statement.

State Budget Director Blake Washington’s reason for the changes to the “Save Harmless” provision would be, he argued, to help level the playing field, taking into account drops in enrollment and shifting that money to districts with higher needs.

The Republicans say they also want to work on the learning loss gap caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring unspent federal emergency relief aid supports academic recovery programs, expanding state grant funding, creating an office in the State Education Department to track outcomes of those programs and focusing on future aid increases for early education. They also want to prohibit housing migrants in K-12 schools or on school grounds and want to create a school resource officer program to permit employment of retired law enforcement officers.

“A formula that increases total education spending by hundreds of millions of dollars while imposing drastic cuts on high-need districts across the state is totally bogus,” said state Sen. Jake Ashby. “Schools in my district are facing $3 million in cuts at a time when they need resources to reverse the damage done by excessive school closures during the pandemic, combat an evolving youth mental health crisis and keep kids safe. Every single member of the Legislature should make it clear to the governor that we won’t pass a budget without restoring these cuts.”


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