Archive for February, 2013

At the End of Our Rope

February 28th, 2013 by Robert Lowry

The Council’s summary and analysis of Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget for education is now available here.

It’s titled, “At the End of Our Rope,” and subtitled “Despite positive steps in Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget, many school districts still face desperate choices.”

Echoing our November finance survey report, the summary begins with a recitation of five reasons why we hear such widespread alarm over financial prospects.  One reason is that districts have been through a prolonged period of difficult budgets:  despite the aid increases enacted last year, 87 percent of all districts are receiving less help from the state than they were in 2008-09, four years ago.

So we note, “A key theme is that the dire outlook is not driven by the proposed budget for the one year ahead, but by forces that have accumulated and accelerated over many years.”

In the introduction, we observe,

Governor Cuomo’s budget is more positive for schools than might have been anticipated, partly because the Governor proposes additional aid above what the School Aid growth cap he initiated would have allowed.

Yet a repeat of our survey would likely yield even more pessimistic results now, as superintendents, boards, business officials and communities wrestle with actual budgeting choices.

The report summarizes the Governor’s budget proposals affecting schools and offers commentary on many, including School Aid recommendations, Education Reform Commission initiatives, and the stable pension contribution rate option.

It also includes a section on the debate over increasing Foundation Aid vs. reducing the Gap Elimination Adjustment.

While it makes sense to focus on reducing the GEA, both are means of providing more general aid, some poor districts gain little from further GEA reductions, and what really matters is how aid is calculated, not what form it takes.

 

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Why are so many school districts worried about insolvency?

February 8th, 2013 by Robert Lowry

Last Thursday evening (January 31), over 1,200 concerned parents, community members, educators, and school district leaders gathered for a forum titled, “Your Public Schools in Fiscal Peril – Running Out of Time & Options.” Organizers hoped for 800 and planned for no more than 1,000.

The Council’s November 2012 survey report found 9 percent of superintendents anticipating financial insolvency for their districts within two years and 41 percent in within four years.  Even higher proportions foresaw “educational insolvency” — becoming unable to fund instructional and other student service mandates.

Why do so many Capital Region residents see their schools as in peril?

Why do so many school district leaders across the state fear insolvency?

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