Area school superintendents have been waiting with a mixture of cautious optimism and perhaps an element of dread as the picture of funding for the next school year has slowly come into focus.
But after New York lawmakers hammered out a final version of the state’s 2021-22 budget Tuesday — which contains promising funding boosts for school districts — Superintendent Thomas Simon of Portville Central was positive Wednesday.
“While we wait for the details of the state aid recently approved, we are extremely optimistic about our future funding,” Simon said. “Portville Central School has been shorted over $3.5 million dollars a year in foundation aid annually. Reports indicate that we will be receiving that funding in full over the next three years.”
Simon added, “We cannot thank Assemblyman (Joseph) Giglio and Sen. (George) Borrello enough for their staunch advocacy to fully fund school districts. Things are looking very optimistic; we are eagerly awaiting the details.”
The budget includes $29.5 billion for schools, with approximately 75% of it targeted to high-need school districts.
For some school districts, the additional state money will fund full-day prekindergarten classes, as well as gradual financing of school districts over three years through the foundation aid formula.
As budget information was released during the spring break for area schools, a few local superintendents, including Rick Moore of Olean schools, couldn’t be reached for comment.
At Allegany-Limestone, Superintendent Tony Giannicchi said he and district business administrator Daniele Vecchio are both off on spring break this week, therefore didn’t have an opportunity to look at the numbers yet.
“We are always appreciative of any extra aid that our district may receive, but we are always cautiously optimistic,” Giannicchi said.
Moore had expressed that cautious optimism when reacting earlier in March to news from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer that $2.5 billion has been secured for Upstate school districts through the federal American Rescue Plan.
In addition, Superintendent Larry Ljungberg of the Hinsdale Central School District, who also couldn’t be reached for comment, had been hesitant to speak about news of the additional funding announced in March until it actually materializes.
Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young Jr. and State Education Department Commissioner Betty Rosa said they have advocated for the full funding of the Foundation Aid formula and they lauded the Legislature and governor for “committing to fully funding the formula within three years.”
In a joint statement, they also said they were “delighted that several of the Regents’ priorities are fulfilled in this budget. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, children across New York are at an even greater disadvantage and these funds are needed now more than ever.”
New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said Wednesday “it’s an understatement to say it has been a tough year, but this budget brings hope for revival starting in 2021.”
He said the state is taking the first steps since the Great Recession to fully fund Foundation Aid for K-12 schools, which he called a “huge boost” as districts and educators assess the pandemic-related needs of students.
“Starting to eliminate the TAP gap that has squeezed our public colleges also is progress toward maintaining and improving high-quality state and city university systems,” he said. “For our community colleges, the state is committing to maintaining critical funding that will help these two-year institutions through enrollment fluctuations driven by the pandemic.”
(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)