Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Governor Kathy Hochul and State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Dear Commons Community,
New York is relying on an influx of federal funds and higher-than-expected tax revenues to balance a $220 billion, one-year state budget, which went into law over the weekend.
Disagreements over policy issues held up passage of the spending plan past an April 1 deadline. The budget has often served over the decades as a vehicle for passing major policy legislation, and elected officials are using this year’s to tackle issues expected to resonate with voters during an election year.
The budget boosts pay for health care and home care workers, shaves 16 cents off the cost of a gallon of gas through December and helps New Yorkers with unpaid rent and utility bills. Most important to readers of this blog are provisions for increased funding for education.
Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the new budget includes a record $31.5 billion in total school aid for school year 2023, the highest level of State aid ever, and $8.2 billion in support for higher education as part of this year’s Budget.
“The opportunity to pursue a quality education is the silver bullet for so many New Yorkers,” Governor Hochul said. “With this budget we are going to unleash the power of higher education to lift up the people of our state by investing in our institutions and our teachers. Thanks to the help of Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie, this unprecedented level of funding will broaden access to opportunity in New York and build the education system of the future.” Here are some of the education highlights.
Historic Education Funding
The State Budget is reflective of Governor Hochul’s strong commitment to education by providing additional funding and services to meet the needs of students, teachers, and schools amid the pandemic. The Budget is providing $31.5 billion in total school aid for school year 2023, the highest level of State aid ever. This investment represents a year-to-year increase of $2.1 billion, or 7.2 percent, compared to school year 2022, including a $1.5 billion or 7.7 percent Foundation Aid increase, representing the second year of Governor Hochul’s three-year commitment to fully fund Foundation Aid.
The Enacted Budget increases the State’s annual investment in high-quality prekindergarten to $1.1 billion, an increase of $125 million, or 13 percent. With this funding, school districts will be able to provide access to high-quality, full-day pre-kindergarten across the State for approximately 17,500 additional four-year-old children.
Academic and Mental Health Support
The State Budget includes a total of $100 million of matching funds over two years to be provided to school districts and BOCES with the highest needs to address student wellbeing and learning loss in response to the trauma brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes support for extended school day or school year programs, afterschool programs, mental health professionals and other locally determined initiatives.
Recruiting and Retaining Teachers
The Budget includes funding for new initiatives centered around expanding the workforce for teachers, as well as expanding the means by which professionals from other careers may become teachers.
The Budget creates a state teacher residency program to bring more teachers into schools sooner while providing greater opportunity for support and training as they embark on their careers. The State will also expand alternative teacher certification programs, such as the New York City Teaching Collaborative, to make it easier and more appealing for professionals in other careers to become teachers. Aspiring teachers would apprentice in high-need school districts while pursuing a master’s degree in their field.
The Budget includes initiatives to upskill current paraprofessionals and teaching assistants. There are more than 100,000 paraprofessionals and teaching assistants in New York State schools—a number that is rapidly rising. The Budget will provide grants for paraprofessionals who remain employed in a school district to pursue a teaching degree. School districts would be required to pair candidates with professional mentors.
In order to bolster the workforce and address the teacher shortage, the Budget will temporarily waive the income cap for certain retirees. There are 169,000 retired New York State Teachers, many of whom would be willing to return to teaching by waiving the current pension limit. Certain retirees would have the $35,000 limit removed, incentivizing teachers and other school workers to rejoin the workforce.
In order to improve air quality for school-age New Yorkers, the State Budget requires that all new school bus purchases be zero-emissions by 2027 and all school buses on the road be zero-emissions by 2035. The State Budget will provide $500 million through the Environmental Bond Act to support school districts in purchases of zero-emission buses and related charging infrastructure including charging stations. Additionally, the State Budget authorizes school districts to lease or finance zero-emission buses for 12 years, more than double the current five-year limitation for diesel buses, in order to help districts meet this goal, and ensures Transportation Aid is provided on zero-emission buses and related charging infrastructure.
The Budget will build on Governor Hochul’s commitment to bring environmental sustainability to New York schools. The Clean Green Schools initiative provided in the “Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act” will serve more than 1,000 public schools and benefit nearly 1 million students. The program will drive significant infrastructure upgrades, such as geothermal heating and cooling, solar, green roofs, and indoor air quality/ventilation. This vital investment will not only boost the state’s economy but advance climate justice by bringing clean energy and a healthier indoor environment to under-resourced public schools.
SUNY and CUNY Operating Support
Governor Hochul is providing more than $500 million in new SUNY and CUNY operating support. This transformational increase includes money for both systems and greater supports for students across the State. This includes $68 million of one-time debt service relief for the three SUNY teaching hospitals.
The State Budget provides SUNY and CUNY with $106 million—$53 million for each system—to hire additional full-time faculty at both four-year colleges and community colleges. This investment will fund additional full-time faculty— at SUNY and CUNY, including support for CUNY’s plan to convert adjuncts to full-time faculty. In addition, the Budget includes a $110 million increase to fund fringe benefits for SUNY and CUNY staff.
The Budget allocates $100 million for nonrecurring strategic investments—$60 million for SUNY and $40 million for CUNY—to improve academic programs, increase enrollment, enhance student support services and modernize operations.
New Capital Support for SUNY and CUNY Facilities
The Budget invests $2.2 billion in new State-funded appropriations for capital projects at SUNY and CUNY—$1.2 billion for SUNY’s State-operated campuses, $879 million for CUNY’s senior colleges, and $102 million for community colleges across the State.
Supporting Community Colleges
The Budget includes a funding floor to protect community colleges from the loss of over $80 million in funding from declining enrollment.
Governor Hochul recognizes that for many students, full-time higher education is not viable with other challenges like work or families. She also recognizes that many students need access to effective training courses to upskill in their current careers. To address this, the Governor is providing $150 million to expand the Part-time Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to support part-time students in degree-seeking programs and non-degree training programs at community colleges.
Expanded Opportunity Programs for Students
The Governor is providing a $30 million increase in funding for higher education opportunity programs and training centers, to ensure those students who face academic and economic challenges are positioned for success.
Expanded Childcare on Campus
The Governor is providing $15.6 million in start-up funding to establish childcare centers on all remaining SUNY and CUNY campuses. This initiative will greatly expand access to higher education for more individuals.
Thank you Governor, State Assembly and State Senate!