The following offers highlights of the final legislative action during 2005. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
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New York’s year-round legislature passed a budget before the March 31 deadline for the first time in 21 years. In the process, they boosted school aid for fiscal 2006 by a higher rate than in recent years and passed laws to help ensure schools spend that money legally. But they postponed the biggest fiscal issue facing them: how to resolve a lawsuit that could require the state to increase school spending in New York City by $5.63 billion a year.
Most observers speculate that issue won’t be settled this year. With Gov. George E. Pataki not seeking re-election in 2006, it is unlikely he will back such a large budget increase this year.
The state is awaiting an appeals-court ruling on its argument that a trial court overstepped its authority when ordering the state to provide the city’s public schools with an extra $5.6 billion a year, phased in over four years. (“Judge Orders Billions for Schools in N.Y.C.,” Feb. 23, 2005.)
For fiscal 2006, the legislature appropriated $15.6 billion to K-12 schools statewide. The $830 million increase is a 5.6 percent increase over fiscal 2005.
In reaction to recent embezzlement scandals, mostly on Long Island, the legislature, which finished its legislative business late last month, financed the hiring of 84 new auditors to scour districts’ budgets. With the additional manpower, state Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi will audit all 700 school districts every five years.
The legislature also passed legislation requiring school board members to undergo training in financial management and taking some budget authority away from superintendents and giving it to elected board members.