Some state budget items…

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 at 2:08 pm by

A few items on our website pertaining to Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget for education:

  • Our testimony at last week’s Assembly-Senate budget hearing.
  • An excel spreadsheet that produces easy to read printouts of the Governor’s School Aid proposal for any district.
  • A power point presentation I did for superintendents in Western New York last Friday.

Part of my presentation attempted to convey how different and better the state budget outlook is for schools compared to a year ago.  Obviously, however, the tax cap is a huge dark cloud on the horizon.

Battle lines are forming over one aspect of the Governor’s education budget – his proposal to devote nearly a third of his overall proposed increase — $250 million – to incentive grants intended to encourage and reward gains in student achievement and management efficiency.

State Education Commissioner John King led off the witnesses at the legislature’s budget hearing and supported holding funding for the incentive grants at $50 million and providing an additional $200 million in general aid to districts.  This was the recommendation in the School Aid proposal adopted by the Board of Regents.

All the traditional education groups called for shifting funds out of the incentive grants and into general aid.  A collection of seven other groups emerged to back the Governor’s plan.  Newsday jumped into the debate with a short editorial siding with the Governor.

In our testimony, I acknowledged that promoting student achievement and management efficiency are desirable goals, but said “more than new incentives, we think changes in old rules are necessary – changes in state mandates which will allow schools to get more impact for students from the resources taxpayers can provide.”

Another concern expressed by some school officials is that their districts simply lack the administrative capacity to devote to assembling a grant application.

A fundamental problem is that, whatever the merits, the timelines for awarding grants do not “sync” with school budget decision-making.  Very little of the funding will be awarded in time for districts to factor into the budgets they will ask voters to consider in May.

Here is an article on the difficulties with the grant programs which ran in several papers in the Gannett chain over the weekend.

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