Remarks by Speaker Sheldon Silver
Assembly Education/CFE Funding Plan
Capitol, Speaker's Conference Room
From the moment the Court announced its decision in CFE, our position in the education debate has been and continues to be clear and consistent.
First and foremost, the State of New York has a constitutional as well as a moral obligation to provide each and every child with a sound, basic education so that they realize their potential, become productive citizens capable of defending this Democracy; and so that they possess the knowledge and the skills to compete for the jobs of tomorrow and become the strong workforce that will be needed to drive our economy in this new millennium.
Therefore, the Assembly Majority is committed - as we always have been - to ensuring that every school district in this State not only has the resources to provide the best possible education to our children, but is accountable for the results they produce.
We will never employ a "Robin Hood" approach of supporting some schools at the expense of others.
Two: the Governor's rhetoric has not and does not match the reality of his actions. The reality is that this Administration - for nine years - has shortchanged our children's education and continues to do so with the plan he's put on the table. On top of that, this Governor is not striving to get us our fair share of federal dollars.
Three: it is unacceptable for this State to gamble any further with our children's education.
Four: (Let me write this on the chalkboard for all of you.) REFORM + RESOURCES = RESULTS. That what this is really all about. That is the how we improve our education system and enable our children to achieve the higher standards.
That is the formula that has turned around Arbor Hill Elementary here in Albany, the Hughes School in Syracuse, the Audubon School in Rochester, and Lower Manhattan's P.S. 20; which, I might add, is one of the financially poorest schools in the Nation.
I visited these schools. I saw first hand the success that is taking place in those classrooms. Math scores are up. English Language Arts scores are up.
All of those schools are improving thanks in part to reforms, such as smaller class sizes (which was championed by this Democratic Conference) and to resources, such as highly trained teachers working in teams in those classrooms;
And thanks to the wholehearted commitment of schools and school districts, the local businesses, the not-for-profit communities, the educators and staff, the parents, families and most important, the students themselves.
In meeting the guidelines set forth by the Court in CFE while also ensuring that resources are invested so that each and every child in this state receives a sound, basic education, New Yorkers have a right to expect a wholehearted commitment from their government.
That commitment is what has been missing from this Administration from its inception.
The plan we present this afternoon honors our commitment to the children of New York State. Following the guidelines set forth by the Court, our five-year CFE plan:
The Assembly Majority's plan is the only plan that actually addresses the Court's recommendations.
What we have done is establish a school-aid foundation formula that takes into account regional costs, student need and the fiscal capacity of the local community. When combined with our proposed two-year school-aid budgets, our formula provides the simplicity, transparency, predictability and stability our school districts want and deserve.
Our CFE plan provides ongoing support for the programs and resources that are critical to a sound, basic education:
As part of our plan, we ask the City of New York to commit to an enhanced maintenance of effort. We call upon the City to contribute an additional $1.2 billion phased in over the next five years to support innovative programs that directly address student achievement, including programs such as teacher recruitment and retention.
In addition, we strengthen and support the accountability measures already instituted by the Board of Regents and the State Department of Education.
We will assist those schools having trouble meeting standards by helping them identify and resolve those issues with resources for training, technical assistance and staff.
We ensure a thorough and accountable planning and reporting process without piling on additional bureaucracy.
Employing our foundation formula, our CFE plan provides $6.1 billion more in statewide school aid over five years. Where does this money come from? In part, it comes from the natural growth in revenues. Let's take a look at the history.
Over the past eight years, school aid has increased by an average of 5.6 percent annually. In fact, since the adoption of the STAR program in 1996, this State has increased education aid by $3.3 billion, and reduced property taxes by $3 billion. In that same timeframe, the State of New York cut state taxes by $10.7 billion.
In the current fiscal year, we estimate that there is $900 million more in revenues than projected by the Governor.
I know you don't want to hear the shopping cart analogy again, but as I have said time and again, funding education is a matter of setting priorities and making a commitment.
The Governor knows the history. He knows that the resources are available. Again, he simply refuses to make the necessary, whole-hearted commitment to our children in the classroom - particularly those children in our high-needs school districts.
Through our formula, we target 86.47 percent of the funding increase - or $5.245 billion - to high-needs school districts.
New York City will receive 63.86 percent of the new funding - or $3.873 billion - in additional school aid in order to respond to the Court's decision.
Buffalo will receive nearly $126 million more. Rochester nearly $182 million more. Syracuse will receive a more than $88 million increase. Albany will receive a more than $35 million increase.
For the current year, our foundation formula approach increases school aid for this school year by $1.2 billion, with every school district in the State receiving an increase in aid.
As part of our plan, we also establish a statewide capital grant program and fund it with revenues from currently authorized VLTs.
The dedication of $240 million in VLT revenues will leverage a $2.2 billion capital program beginning in the 2004-2005 fiscal year to meet school infrastructure needs across the State. More important, we target these funds to needy school districts.
As facilities are constructed or improved, the amount of dollars needed for construction will then decrease, and the amount provided for instruction will increase.
As I said at the beginning, the Governor's plan does not address the Court's CFE findings.
Once again, his rhetoric only leads to questions. In fact, the Governor's funding scheme is based in part on federal dollars. Are these new federal dollars?
No, he has to be counting existing federal dollars that are already coming to the State and are targeted exclusively to children with disabilities.
According to the State Education Department, in memos they sent to school districts around this State that receive federal dollars, those federal dollars are declining. There is no basis to assume that in the next five years there will be a $2 billion increase in those federal dollars and that they are unrestricted aid. There has never been that kind of unrestricted aid from the federal government. Nobody is proposing it, not the President, not the Senate, not the House.
So, there is a significant part of the Governor's plan that has no basis in fact, and there is certainly no way to tell if the federal government is suddenly going to provide $2 billion in unrestricted aid to the State of New York.
In fact, had we not forced the Administration to acknowledge its record of shortchanging education, had we not forced the Governor to step up and address the Court's findings, we probably wouldn't be here today, and we certainly wouldn't have the plan that the Governor put out last week.
The Assembly Majority's plan is the best plan for our school children. It establishes the cost of a sound, basic education. It reforms the school-aid formula. It ensures that every school has sufficient resources. It enhances accountability around the State.
Every day that this State waits to address CFE, is a day our school children lose and can never get back.
This is the plan I presented to the Governor weeks ago. Now that all of the plans are out, we need an open, public process to resolve CFE before the Court's deadline.
Surely, our children deserve this kind of commitment. Surely, we recognize our obligation to them, and will act in their best interests.
Just remember that equation: REFORM + RESOURCES = RESULTS.
Let us commit ourselves to solving this equation and let our answer be: the children of New York come first.
Click here to view school aid runs
Click here to view the Report of the Ways And Means Committee on the New York State Assembly School Aid Reform Proposal
New York State Assembly
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