Governor Cuomo delivered his annual State of the State address in Albany yesterday, and combined it with his release of budget priorities and executive budget legislation. Overall, it was a pretty good day for charters.
First, there are a few proposals that provide modest pro-charter changes. Second, at this time there is no proposed legislative language that is bad for charters. We do not view this executive budget as championing our issues, but it is a modest proposal that provides a strong starting point for further negotiations.
Here's what we see right now in the budget legislation:
SPECIAL FUNDING: The Governor's budget proposes that an additional $27 million be released to all charter schools statewide on or after April 1, 2017. This is very similar to the $25 million in aid included in last year's final budget package that charters should be receiving in the next few months. The $27 million would be divided evenly among all charter pupils statewide that are enrolled as of December 1, 2016. This amount should provide more than $200 per pupil. While this is one-time funding, it shows a continued commitment to help charter students across the state.
PER PUPIL FUNDING: The proposal puts New York City charters back onto the standard funding formula originally crafted in the Charter Schools Act. As a reminder, for the last few years this formula was either frozen to hold funding levels flat, or increased via a modest supplement on top of the rate that was calculated in the 2010-11 school year.
Under the proposal only NYC schools would revert back to this formula. Outside of NYC current law would remain unchanged and one of two things happen: 1) schools that would go up under the formula calculation continue to get a scheduled $500 supplement on top of the 2010 rate (which amounts to a $150 increase from 2015-16 to 2016-17 in most areas); or, 2) schools that would go down under the formula continue to be "held harmless" so they do not lose any funding year-over-year. Most areas will go up under this scenario by $150 but please do not hesitate to call or email me to talk about the specifics.
FACILITIES: The proposal does not extend any new facilities relief to those charter schools excluded from the existing policy that allows only new or growing charter schools in New York City additional aid. This means that many schools within NYC, and all charter schools outside of NYC, continue to be the only public schools in the state who are not granted public funding to provide for their school buildings. We will be fighting hard over the next few weeks to change this unfair policy as the budget process continues. Stay tuned for ways you can help!
In a positive move for the NYC schools who do get additional aid for their buildings, the Governor's proposal eliminates a planned switch to lease aid. This is a smart policy proposal that we fully support.
ENROLLMENT AND RETENTION: There was mention of a proposal to examine enrollment and retention policies in charter schools, but at this time we cannot find further details in the proposed legislation. We will work to determine what this means for charters over the next few days. This is one area where a bad policy for charter schools could emerge so we will be keeping a close eye on the situation.
STIMULUS FUND: The budget proposal holds the stimulus fund steady with $3.1 million to allocate to charter schools regardless of authorizer.
The Governor's proposal is an important first step in the budget process that is expected to culminate in a final budget deal by April 1st. We still have a long way to go, but right now we have a strong starting point as negotiations in Albany heat up in the coming weeks.