Albany Round-up

January 24, 2013

NY Gov.'s education plans get lukewarm response

BUFFALO — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to spend 4.4 percent more on schools next year received a lukewarm reception Wednesday from educators and advocates who praised some of the planned initiatives but said funding would remain short of what it should be under a landmark court ruling six years ago.

Cuomo's budget plan for the fiscal year that starts April 1 includes a 3 percent increase — about $610 million — in education aid plus $203 million to offset high pension contribution costs. An additional $75 million would go toward initiatives highlighted in his State of the State address.

Total spending would rise by $889 million — about $300 per student, according to Cuomo.

"It takes many steps in the right direction," said New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi, "but we still need to address years of inequality and the state's failure to meet its legal obligation, in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, to address the achievement gap by investing more in its low-wealth, high-need school districts."

In 2007, the state agreed to substantially increase funding for poor school districts after the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a group that sued over the financing formula.

The union said the increase outlined by Cuomo Tuesday would not make up for past budget cuts and last year's implementation of a property tax cap limiting what districts can raise.

Cuomo's office didn't comment Wednesday on the union's statements. In his budget address, the governor called the 8.6 percent total increase in his last two budget proposals "notable and significant."

"That is double the rate of inflation," Cuomo said in Tuesday's address. "That is four or five times the increase in home values during the same period of time and it's during a period of time where student enrollment has gone down."

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