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School boards group likes a lot about Hochul's budget, but pushing for free school meals

A woman stands at a podium with the American flag on her right and the New York flag on her left.
Ashley Kang
Gov. Kathy Hochul's proposed executive budget allots a record $24.5 billion in total school aid.

A New York group representing public boards of education says Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed state budget is good news for schools. Her proposal calls for a record $34.5 billion in total school aid, with a $2.7 billion increase in foundation aid from last year.

New York State School Boards Association Director of Governmental Relations Brian Fessler said the funds will ensure districts can address a variety of needs.

"That's important to help school districts meet their annual obligations," Fessler said. "But also try to respond to inflationary pressures, staff shortages, learning loss from the pandemic, in addition to the variety of unique needs that each community faces.”

He notes school boards have greater flexibility when it comes to foundation aid. It allows districts and their communities to make determinations on where those dollars go. However, not all funds are like that. Hochul earmarked $250 million to support high-impact tutoring, in an effort to address pandemic learning loss.

But Fessler said there is one thing still missing: a plan for statewide universal school meals.

“That was something that during the pandemic, federal waivers and federal allowances helped to provide for," he said of free meals for all school children. "Those [funds] expired middle of 2022. We, with a number of other education and social groups across the state, had been pushing hard for the state to come in to fund that gap."

Other education funding of note in the governor’s proposal includes $125 million to expand pre-K, $1.5 billion for capital projects within the SUNY and CUNY systems, hundreds of millions for research labs at the University at Buffalo and Stony Brook University and $200 million for upgrades to the IT infrastructure throughout the SUNY system.