Budget 2021: Education budget to focus on aid to high-need districts

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined an $826 million increase in school aid on Tuesday, with the primary goal of creating equity in school funding throughout the state.

The announcement came as part of Cuomo’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget address.

The $826 million marks a 3% increase in school aid by the state, adding up to a total education budget of $28.5 billion.

Cuomo stressed that the focus of the education budget in FY 2021 will not just be how much money is spent on education, but how that money is spent and which schools and districts receive the most state education aid.

According to the governor, a survey of 300 major school districts in the state found that wealthier schools spent $36,000 per student, compared to $16,000 per student at poorer schools. Cuomo said the state will begin making changes to the way the state distributes education funding in an attempt to close that gap.

The budget proposes a focus on Foundation Aid, rather than expense-based aid, with 85% of the budgeted Foundation Aid increase going to the highest-need schools. a previous focus on expense-based aid has resulted in wealthier schools getting more state funding simply because they were spending more money per student, Cuomo said. This only added to a gap in funding between wealthy and poorer schools.

Currently, state funding makes up just 40% of education funding in the states, but Cuomo proposed strategically distributing state funding aid to chip away at any disparities at the local or federal level.

Higher Education

Cuomo also announced a 3.4%, $257 million increase in higher education operating aid, making a total budget of $7.8 billion.

This increase will pay for a number of changes, including $1.5 billion in capital for SUNY/CUNY campuses and a proposal to raise the income eligibility cap for the Excelsior Scholarship to $150,000, a move which Cuomo said will allow an additional 230,000 students to go to college tuition-free.

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