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Concern over school aid funding changes

Melinda Shelton

School funding advocates are concerned that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is setting up for another political battle over school aid next year in a little-noticed provision in his new state budget.

Tim Kremer is with the New York State School Boards Association, one of the groups worried about Cuomo’s proposal to end what’s known as the foundation aid formula in 2018. The formula was set up to address a decade-old court order known as the Campaign for Fiscal Equity that said the state was underfunding schools by billions of dollars.

Kremer said the provision took him by surprise, after he was initially pleased that the governor wants an additional $1 billion for schools.

“This idea of pulling the rug out from under us at the end was like, ‘Ay yi yi, I thought we were there,’” Kremer said.

The pro-school funding group Alliance for Quality Education called it “an unprecedented assault on the education of students of color, students in poverty and immigrant students.”

A spokesman for Cuomo’s budget division said the groups have it wrong, and that the changes would better help the state’s poorest schools than the current formula.

“Any suggestion that the foundation aid formula has or will be eliminated is a direct attempt to mislead the public and factually untrue,” said budget spokesman Morris Peters.

Peters pointed out that Cuomo has increased school aid by $6.1 billion over the last six years.

Kremer said he’s open to hearing a fuller explanation.