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New York Legislature Approves 5.6% Increase in Aid to Schools

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New York's public schools will receive a 5.6 percent increase in basic state aid next year, under a fiscally conservative budget adopted by the legislature last week.

The $429-million increase is almost twice the amount proposed by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo earlier this year, but only about half the average annual increase the schools have received over the last six years.

An additional $12 million in new money was allocated for increases in the state's major categorical education programs, but no new programs were funded.

Lawmakers rejected the Governor's request to shift a significant amount of the responsibility for education funding, particularly for special-education programs, from the state to the local level. (See Education Week, Jan. 25, 1989.)

Governor Cuomo had proposed making school districts and county governments responsible for more than $160 million of the cost of educating the handicapped.

The legislature did a "good job" of protecting education programs given the state's financial difficulties, said J. Robert Daggett, executive assistant to the state commissioner of education.

Educators had predicted that the Governor's budget recommendations would have forced significant cuts in local programs.

The legislature's refusal to accept the Governor's proposals will probably avert any major fiscal crises for the schools, officials said.

In an attempt to balance the budget, which will total $47 billion next year, lawmakers approved nearly $1 billion in tax and fee increases. The budget, however, preserves the next phase of a four-year reduction in state income taxes.

The final issue resolved by lawmakers before passing the budget was an agreement to provide a 15 percent increase in welfare benefits. Republican lawmakers succeeding in tying the increase to slightly tighter restrictions on eligibility, but several of their reform demands were held over for further study.


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