March 2004

"Step Ahead"
to success

From the NYS Assembly • Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Herman D. Farrell Jr., Alexander B. Grannis, RoAnn Destito, Susan John, Members, Joint Legislative Conference Committee on Budget Reform
Steve Sanders • Chair, Education Committee
What the experts are saying...

"Funding stability and predictability for our school districts is long overdue. We endorse ‘advance funding’ school aid on an annually updated two-year cycle because it will enable longer range planning and efficiencies that save taxpayer money."

- New York State School Boards Association

"School funding should be more predictable…. Schools need to plan for more than one year at a time. Effective planning saves taxpayer dollars in the long run."

- The Midstate School Finance Consortium

"We also need a predictable funding system…. School districts and the public demand a stable state assistance system that allows for the proper and consistent planning of local school budgets."

- Robin Rapaport, President, National Education Association of New York

"…The Assembly has taken a surprising new approach to education funding, offering a two-year proposal that would be renewed every year."

- New York State Council of School Superintendents

"Effective education requires a planned multi-year approach where what is taught this year builds on earlier experience and teaching. This multi-year planning approach can only be effective when funding streams are stable, predictable, and sustainable."

- New York State Association of School Business Officials

Assembly’s "Step Ahead" Budget Plan Puts Schools on the Path to Success

Our children don’t get a second chance at success. Unexpected budget cuts, crowded classrooms and teacher layoffs undermine our children’s education. Schools don’t need budget uncertainty; they need a formula for success.

The Assembly’s "Step Ahead" school budgeting plan does exactly that. For the first time ever, schools will know how much state aid they will receive a full year in advance.

School officials across New York have voiced concern over annual budget uncertainty. It’s often a guessing game for school boards if their state aid amounts will increase or decrease from one year to the next. Complicating matters is the fact that local schools often have to prepare their budgets – and submit them for voter approval – well before state education aid numbers are finalized. In fact, often when voters go to the polls in May, the state budget has not been approved.

The Assembly’s "Step Ahead" plan sets up a two-year school aid formula to give schools the information they need to plan timely budgets and prepare programs that meet high standards (A.9711). The innovative plan, which was first introduced in 2001, helps remove the annual fiscal uncertainty and guards against unnecessary education cuts that could force school districts to raise taxes.

In the first year of the “Step Ahead” plan, the Legislature would adopt an education budget for the next two fiscal years. Thereafter, the Legislature would adopt the education budget for the following fiscal year. That way, school districts will know how much state aid they’re getting a full year in advance.

Senate Drags Feet on School Budget Reform

While the Assembly is determined to help local school districts better plan their budgets, the Senate Majority has been reluctant to support the “Step Ahead” school budgeting plan.

There are plenty of instances when the Legislature has enacted budget provisions on a multi-year basis, including tax cuts and cost-of-living adjustments to pensions and the STAR program.

Unfortunately, some senators say they’re reluctant to support the "Step Ahead" school budgeting plan because we shouldn’t plan a year in advance – it’s too risky. It’s not! It’s a common-sense solution to one of the state’s biggest problems – providing local schools with reliable aid numbers one year in advance.

It’s time the Senate put aside politics and stepped forward to support meaningful reforms that will benefit our schools and our children.

Assembly Pushes Budget Reforms and Investments in Education

The Assembly doesn’t just focus on reforming the education formula. The Assembly continues to fight for real investments in New York’s education system. While the governor proposes $369 million in education cuts, the Assembly is fighting for a spending plan that invests – not undermines – state support for local schools. In fact, New York schools would have $3.8 billion less if the Assembly had gone along with the governor’s previous budget proposals. The governor’s latest school aid cuts would force school boards to choose between cutting programs and raising property taxes to make ends meet.

The Assembly also recently unveiled a comprehensive reform plan to make the state’s budget process more open, accountable and efficient. The budget reform plan overhauls how the budget is negotiated and enhances accountability by making more expenditures subject to checks and balances. Funding schools a year in advance should be part of any reform the Legislature enacts.

The Assembly firmly believes that meaningful reforms – whether it’s bringing greater public scrutiny to state spending or creating a new education aid formula – will improve New York’s ability to deliver efficient, cost-effective services to working families and taxpayers.

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