Education

How Cuomo repurposed pandemic aid meant for schools

Without federal support for state and local governments, the governor dipped into funds meant for education.

Students at the One World Middle School at Edenwald in the Bronx.

Students at the One World Middle School at Edenwald in the Bronx. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Education is a huge part of New York’s budget, accounting for around a quarter of the state’s expenditures in normal years. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the state has used an influx of federal dollars to supplant a portion of its aid to local school districts. Last March, the CARES Act allocated $1.2 billion toward education, and the December stimulus bill included nearly $4 billion. But the March package offset nearly one-to-one reductions in the state’s own aid – with total education spending remaining flat – and approximately half of the December assistance supplanted education spending in the executive budget proposal for the coming fiscal year.

Though the remainder of the December aid does represent a supplemental investment of approximately $2 billion, advocates claim that the federal assistance was not intended to replace the state’s own education spending.

“The federal package did not include any aid for state and local governments, so even though schools were getting a boost, there was no money for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to use just to close the state budget gap,” said Jasmine Gripper, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education.

Critics of the state’s management of the federal aid argue that the additional funding was needed to keep schools running during the pandemic. Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, told City & State the federal aid was needed for personal protective equipment, ventilation upgrades and nightly cleaning, in addition to the costs associated with remote learning.

“Whenever we fight for aid, we hate when anything gets supplanted,” he said.

A spokesperson for Cuomo did not respond to a request for comment on the state’s use of the federal aid.

New York is currently facing a projected budget deficit of $60 billion over the next four years. The $2 billion supplemental portion of the December aid is slated to drive a 7.1% increase in total education spending in the proposed 2021-2022 budget – versus a typical annual increase of around 3% to 4% – which raises the possibility of a fiscal cliff once emergency assistance from Washington dries up.

In his executive budget for the coming year, Cuomo proposed two recurring actions that would result in aggregate reductions in education spending. The so-called Local District Funding Adjustment would reduce school aid by about $1.3 billion annually, and the Services Aid consolidation – which combines 11 expense-based aid categories into one – would yield around $700 million in recurring savings.

Under the proposed Local District Funding Adjustment, school districts that receive more funding from the state through the School Tax Relief, or STAR, program – which per capita tend to be wealthier districts – would see the steepest reduction in aid. Nevertheless, education equity advocates argue that the state has been underfunding public schools since the 2007 enactment of the Foundation Aid formula, following the landmark 2006 Campaign for Fiscal Equity ruling that found that New York was underfunding schools.

“Cuomo is choosing to balance the budget on the backs of Black, brown and low-income students by reducing the state’s commitment to education instead of what he should be doing, which is asking the ultrarich and New York’s billionaires to pay a little bit more,” Gripper said.

Both recurring reductions would have a significant impact on New York City, which operates the nation’s largest public school system. The Department of Education is the largest agency in the city’s budget, and a substantial portion of its funding comes from state aid. Given the particularly hard toll the pandemic has taken on New York’s business districts and retail sector, coupled with the explosion of remote work, it may take a while for property taxes – which constitute the city’s largest tax revenue stream – to rebound.

“The city is going to be facing this multiyear revenue hit on the property tax, which it has not had during prior recessions, and so its ability to fill in if state aid is lower – which is what they have usually done with their own resources – is going to be more constrained,” said Ana Champeny, director of city studies at the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan fiscal monitor.

As a fiscal crisis looms in New York, the Biden administration just finalized another round of stimulus funding. The bill includes $130 billion in education aid for schools to reopen.

With students having to make up for learning loss and, in some cases, suffering from emotional trauma, Mulgrew said the city would need the additional federal aid.

“Smaller class sizes definitely are going to have to be in place, and how do we start to help children who have been greatly harmed because of the pandemic?” he said. “It wasn’t fair, and the teachers are ready for that challenge, but you can’t tell us to take on this challenge with our hands tied behind our backs.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.