Monday, March 1, 2021

Council Members Dromm and Treyger urge Congress to make sure while funding schools, NYS and NYC can't pull back their support at the same time

See the letter below, sent late last week from Council Members Danny Dromm and Mark Treyger, chairs of the Council Finance and Education Committees to New York Senators and our Congressional delegation, urging them to provide the additional funding our schools will need next fall to reopen safely and well, with the enhanced in-person support that students will require to recover from the huge losses they've suffered this year.

The letter also points out that the federal aid should be structured so that the state cannot simply cut education funding in the same amount as the additional aid districts receive from the federal government, as Governor Cuomo did last year with his "pandemic adjustment", cutting NYC's aid by nearly a billion dollars.

 As the Education Law Center and AQE point out in a new analysis, Cuomo threatened to do this again in his new Executive Budget, by slashing state aid by over half of the $3.85 billion in federal emergency relief funds in the previous funding passed by Congress, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, funding that was meant to respond to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, not to plug holes in state education budgets. 

At the same time, CM Dromm and CM Treyger also urged the Congress to make sure the city doesn't use these funds by withdrawing its support for schools as well:

" At the same time, include rigorous maintenance of effort provisions in the law, so that the city does not cut back on its own funding, as it is threatening to do with significant cuts to the budgets of as many as 60 percent of schools. This happened previously during the last economic recession in 2007, when during the first two years of the recession, even as the state and the federal government increased aid to schools, the class sizes of NYC students increased sharply, because the city cut its own funding at the same time. Sadly, class sizes in our public schools still remain significantly larger than before 2007, particularly in the early grades."

According to Education Week, the Biden plan does contain certain restrictions to ensure maintenance of effort on the part of states and districts, particularly in relation to their aid to high-poverty districts like NYC: 

States receiving aid through the bill released Monday would have to agree not to cut their per-pupil spending for high-poverty districts more than any per-pupil reduction they make for districts overall, during fiscal 2022 and fiscal 2023....In addition, states could not cut their own aid to the 20 percent of districts with the highest share of economically disadvantaged students from fiscal 2019 funding levels. That requirement would also cover fiscal 2022 and fiscal 2023.

There would be similar conditions for districts’ limits on how much they could cut aid to high-poverty schools.

States would also have to agree to maintain certain levels of spending on K-12 schools in general in proportion to recent years’ spending levels, although they could apply for a waiver from that requirement.

Let's hope that these provisions stick and are strong and meaningful, given the propensity on the part of the city and state to take advantage of funds coming from elsewhere to pull back on their own support to public schools.


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