ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — With the state budget now finalized, experts are taking a closer look at how funding will impact education. Governor Hochul’s initial budget proposal included lifting the cap on charter schools and increasing SUNY and CUNY tuition annually by three percent and by six percent at larger campuses over the next five years. “That adds up to a 50% increase over those five years. That’s a lot. That’s a big increase and we were very pleased that the legislature saw that as the wrong way to go, but they didn’t just say ‘no’ to tuition increase. They fought for funding and operating aid,” said Fred Kowal, President of United University Professions.
“Well, overall, I feel very good,” said Senator Shelley Mayer who is Chair of the Education Committee. Mayer pointed to many successes in this year’s budget: the expansion of full day pre-k to districts outside of New York City and providing free school meals for more schools, which was not included in Hochul’s proposal at all. The Governor had also initially proposed lifting the cap on charter schools, but finalized reinstating 12 zombie charter schools in the city, “Which is charters that were granted, but never opened,” explained Mayer. There are also restrictions when it comes to charters. “They can’t be in one district that has an extremely high saturation of charters and there’s also some money set aside so that the city of New York is not required to co-locate the schools and traditional public schools,” said Mayer.
Leading up to the budget, many were hesitant about expanding charter schools, fearing that funding would be taken away from public schools. “We need to sing the successes of our traditional public schools, many of them are doing great and charters are not the only alternative, they are one alternative, we have plenty of charters I don’t think we need more,” said Mayer. Some lawmakers including Senator Mayer have praised the fact that foundation aid is fully funded, but agree the formula for that aid needs work.