Albany Agenda

NY Legislature seems poised to push back on Hochul’s school funding proposal

The governor wants to move money around based on enrollment, but legislative leaders seem skeptical of that idea.

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. NYS Senate Media Services

With one-house budgets expected soon, the state Legislature is poised to push back against Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed changes to school funding. On Tuesday, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said her chamber continues to be concerned about Hochul’s plan and the cuts it would bring, adding their budget would reflect that. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told Spectrum News’ Susan Arbetter on Monday his chamber would also explore restoring those proposed cuts, but that he is “open” to changes. 

Hochul proposed changes to the Foundation Aid school funding formula and removal of “save harmless,” a mechanism that guarantees schools as much funding as they received the prior year. The changes would reduce funding to nearly half the districts in New York. Since Hochul announced her proposal, lawmakers and advocates have said the unexpected cuts would hamstring schools that didn’t not plan for less funding. 

However, Hochul likened the changes to right-sizing rather than cuts, as some school districts in the state will actually receive more funding under her plan. But some districts, like Mount Vernon’s, are already in dire financial straits, yet would be slated to see their funding reduced under the proposal. 

“I think I've been very clear that because almost half of the school districts in the state will be receiving less funding than they would have anticipated, we have to be very, very concerned about that,” Stewart-Cousins said during an unrelated press conference. “And obviously, we are going to differ (from Hochul) in a few ways.”

On Monday Heastie said “We would, of course, make sure the districts are whole, but we are open to reexamining the Foundation Aid formula,” and that any proposal would ensure rural and suburban districts are protected. 

In spite of the cuts, Hochul’s proposed budget would see Foundation Aid disbursements increase by 2.4% or $507 million. Melinda Person, president of New York State United Teachers, the largest teachers union in the state, has bristled at the cuts since they were announced. In January she told City & State that even with an overall funding increase, the cuts in Hochul’s proposal were an “arbitrary adjustment to save money.”

Stewart-Cousins forecasted that the state Senate’s one-house budget proposal would be released early next week with the hope that lawmakers would vote on them on or before Friday. 

“I'm happy to always get through the important stuff,” she said. “That's health care, housing, education and the things that New Yorkers expect us to do.”