News stories

Cuomo to boost school aid

But says evaluation system must be in place before city gets 4.4% increase

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a 4.4 percent increase in education spending next year, part of an overall state budget increase of 1.9 percent that signals the beginning of cautiously better fiscal times for the state and the city.

The $889 million statewide education increase — $224 million earmarked for New York City — amounts to $300 per student.

New York City lost $240 million in state aid for the current school year when the city walked away from an evaluation agreement with the UFT on the governor’s deadline. The governor warned that New York City would not see next year’s increase either, if it does not implement a new teacher evaluation system by September.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said he wants to negotiate a new system by Sept. 1. “But if we are going to be successful,” he wrote in a Jan. 24 Daily News editorial, “we will need people on the other side of the table who are interested in creating a system that will truly help teachers improve, not in leaving a legacy of blame.”

In a generally upbeat Jan. 22 budget address, Cuomo also called for several new education reform initiatives such as full-day prekindergarten and community schools.

The state is in a position to make new investments in its education system thanks to reduced deficits, Cuomo said. Following the recommendations of his Education Reform Commission, he proposed devoting a total of $60 million to expanding half-day pre-K classes for children in low-income districts to full-day programs; grants for extended school days or longer school years; stipends for top-performing math and science teachers; and increased investment in early college high school programs.

Another $15 million would go to community schools — a reform the UFT championed — that integrate health and social services for students and families. The money would cover planning and startup grants for up to 30 community schools statewide next year.

Those new initiatives would come on top of a $611 million increase in regular school aid and one-time “stabilization” funding.

Acknowledging that districts statewide have been heavily affected by the recession and a property tax cap, the proposed $203 million stabilization money would provide financial help next year to districts hard-hit by rising costs.

In addition, Cuomo said, the state will keep New York City and the other “Big Five” school districts to the terms of the “Contracts for Excellence,” the result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit on state education funding. That will require these cities to maintain programs such as class-size reduction at the same level as this year.

The proposed budget does not include any funding for Teacher Centers.

The Legislature must pass a final budget by April 1.

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