Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

NYS lawmakers plan restorations to Governor Hochul's proposed school aid reductions

The New York state Capitol building at night.
Matt Ryan
New York NOW
The New York state Capitol building at night.

New York’s Assembly and Senate are expected to release their own budget plans early next week. Both houses say they plan to restore school aid reductions proposed by Governor Kathy Hochul.

Hochul wants to make changes to what’s known as the state’s foundation aid formula that’s used for determining the distribution of state aid to schools. She would end the practice of hold harmless, which guarantees that no school district receives less money than it did the previous year. She also wants to alter the way inflation is calculated that would result in less money for some schools this year.

The proposal, has drawn bi partisan opposition.

Analysis by the Senate democrats’ fiscal team estimated schools could lose over $400 million in aid.

Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says the reductions would have a “massive impact” on schools.

“Almost half of the school districts in the state will be receiving less funding than they would have anticipated,” Stewart-Cousins told reporters on Tuesday. “We're very, very concerned about that.”

Senate Education Chair Shelly Mayer, speaking at news conference that also included the teachers union, the school boards association, and the PTA, among others, says lawmakers “can’t allow (the) cuts to go forward."

“I am very confident that my colleagues in the Senate majority will stand to fully reject the cuts that the governor has proposed,” Mayer said.

Republicans, who are in the minority party in both houses, are also opposed to the cuts. GOP Senator Jim Tedisco, the ranking member of the Senate Education Committee and a former high school teacher, says students are still recovering from the effects of the pandemic, and continue to need special mental health and other services initiated in the past couple of years.

“We had a little something called COVID. Our kids sat in the kitchen, many of them in front of a TV camera on a computer while other educators were miles away, on another one,” Tedisco said. “It didn't work. If you look at what happened, there's developmental backstepping.”

Hochul is defending her proposals. She says for the past two years, where were record increases in school spending, as she fulfilled a nearly two decades old court order to fully fund education. Schools also benefited from one time federal pandemic relief aid packages. She says no one should expect that level of spending to continue.

“I assume rational people would’ve understood that that can't happen,” Hochul said. “It is not a cut when you compare it to where we were before I took office, and it's still a huge increase. But I understand the passions behind this. I understand the desire for people to stir this up.”

Hochul says she’s setting aside an additional $100 million to help make adjustments for schools that would lose significant funding if the hold harmless provision is ended. But she says the number of school age children in the state is declining, and the school aid should change accordingly.

“Are we really going to be locked into a formula, just because it has been done that way for a long time?” Hochul said. “I'll never accept that as a satisfactory answer on how I do anything in state government.”

Hochul’s budget director Blake Washington, in an interview with public radio, says his office and the Senate and Assembly fiscal committees recently re-evaluated tax revenue collections, and found that the state has $1.3 billion more coming in than originally anticipated.

Washington says the administration will be talking with lawmakers about potential restoration of school aid and other items.

“We’ll be looking forward to working with the legislature to do just that,” Washington said.

The Senate and Assembly say they will present their budget plans on Monday. After that, they have three weeks until the spending plan is due on April 1st.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.