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Lawmakers say school aid increases are a victory, but not enough

Katie Keier

Several central and northern New York legislators are praising the state's new budget as a win for the region's schools, but they say it was a hard-fought battle that is not over yet.

The recently passed state budget increases school aid funding by $1.1 billion. That includes $700 million more in Foundation Aid, a formula the state uses to send extra money to high-need school districts, which is about half of what some school advocacy organizations have been seeking.

Still, lawmakers like Assemblywoman Addie Jenne (D-Watertown) note that it is $250 million more than what was allocated in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive budget. 

"Given the mountain we had to climb after we saw the governor’s proposed budget, I think many of us feel victorious in reaffirming the Foundation Aid Formula that takes into consideration the economic factors from community to community," Jenne said. 

Cuomo's budget also proposed eventually phasing out the Foundation Aid Formula

"I represent a lot of high-needs school districts and even those that are average needs have concentrations of poverty in them, so my schools need additional resources to try to close that achievement gap to make up for the effects that poverty has on a child’s ability to learn," Jenne said. "Those programs cost money."

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) said securing the additional school aid was critical for his district.

"Because of these increases the Utica School District, which was facing a deficit coming into this budget, will have more aid coming in and prevent layoffs and close their budget deficit," Brindisi said. 

Even with the increases, it falls short of the more than $3 billion that organizations like the Alliance for a Quality education say is still owed to disadvantaged schools under a decade-old court ruling. Parents in districts like Utica are still suing the state in an attempt to retrieve the rest of that money. 

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.