FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Statement from Board of Regents Chancellor Young and State Education Department Commissioner Rosa on the Enacted State Budget
Achieving equity in education has long been the top priority of the Board of Regents and State Education Department. To do this, we have long-advocated for fully funding the Foundation Aid formula and we laud the Legislature and Governor for committing to fully funding the formula within three years. We are also 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.
The enacted budget includes $29.5 billion in State funding to school districts for the 2021-22 school year, with approximately 75 percent of this increase targeted to high-need school districts. We are grateful that our legislative leaders took action to address the need for equitable access to a high-quality education.
We have strongly urged that federal funds be used to supplement – and not supplant – state aid and other sources of state-funded support for school districts. We are pleased this budget directs the Federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to schools to address learning loss, pay for costs incurred during the pandemic, and to address the impact of the pandemic on all our children – especially our low-income students, students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and students that are homeless. With a total of $14 billion in additional federal education stimulus funding comes significant additional administrative responsibilities for the Department to ensure the funding and the new programs they pay for are implemented with fidelity. By providing the Department with tens of millions of dollars less than ARP allows to administer these funds, the budget compromises the Department’s ability to monitor use of funds, provide technical assistance, and guide LEAs on best practices.
The Board of Regents also advanced a priority to fund enhanced supports and services for students with disabilities in postsecondary education. We are pleased that the Enacted Budget includes $2 million to supplement, and not supplant, funding for enhanced student supports and accommodations as well as summer college preparation programs to assist students with disabilities’ transition to college and prepare them to navigate campus facilities and systems.
Also, the Board supported increased funding to Higher Education programs that help foster equity by increasing college access and affordability. This budget provides more than $75 million for Higher Education Opportunities Program (HEOP), Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP), Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP), and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP). We also applaud increasing the maximum Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award for students, as well as phasing out the TAP gap.
The Enacted Budget includes funding to continue the Department’s systems modernization efforts for the Office of the Professions and we thank our colleagues for ensuring its continuation. Our modernization plan is underway to replace our antiquated mainframe system with a robust, custom-built online licensing platform to handle all licensing and renewal activities in one universal system to improve systems for the nearly one million professionals in New York State. The budget also provides funding for the Regents priority to modernize the Department’s state aid system.
The Board of Regents advocated for increased funding to libraries, as their critical role in education has become even more so during the pandemic. The $20 million increase in funding for libraries will ensure that New York’s libraries can continue to take innovative steps to help ensure that families have the technology and digital skills they need to support students.
While the Regents have long supported increased funding for prekindergarten programs, we are concerned with the budget’s use of time-limited federal funds to support this increase and will continue to advocate for these programs to be fully funded with state dollars in the future.
It has long been a priority of the Board to help recruit and retain a statewide corps of teachers who reflect our diverse and vibrant student population. We are happy to see critical support in the Budget for future and current educators, including through an increase to the Albert Shanker Grant program.
Digital fluency is vital for full participation in 21st Century life, work, and citizenship, which is why the Board and Department made it a priority to address this issue and ensure digital equity, digital literacy, and broadband access for all students and families, from remote, rural locations to densely populated, urban centers. The Budget’s inclusion of $15 or less monthly cost for low-income consumer access to broadband service to increase digital equity, as well as the requirement that the Public Service Commission study and map out broadband availability, reliability, and cost of high-speed internet and broadband services in New York State will help some of those families most in need. In addition, the $15 million digital inclusion program will provide resources and technical support for individuals and households who are economically disadvantaged and will further assist in bridging the state’s digital divide.
The Board of Regents and the Department advocated for school districts to be reimbursed for transportation-related expenses for delivering school meals and instructional materials, and for stand-by costs, during the pandemic. While the final budget allows for some of these costs to be reimbursed, we are disappointed that the ongoing impact of the pandemic into this school year was not addressed in the final budget.
We continue to review the details of the Enacted Budget. We thank the Governor, Assembly Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins for advancing several significant initiatives to better serve New York’s children and adults.
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