If Cuomo Wins Third Term as Governor, N.Y. Districts Could See More Fiscal Scrutiny

By Daarel Burnette II — September 14, 2018 2 min read
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been one of the most aggressive governors in the nation in scrutinizing how districts spend state tax dollars.

With his sound defeat of challenger Cynthia Nixon in Thursday’s Democratic primary, he heads into the November election heavily favored against Republican nominee Marcus Molinaro. So what would that mean for school districts if he wins a third term as governor?

For one thing, districts could expect that any more money they get from the state in the coming years would be heavily scrutinized by Cuomo’s office for how efficiently and effectively it’s spent. Here’s why.

During Cuomo’s first two years in office, he ramped up the weight test scores held in teachers’ evaluations and promised to “bust up the monopoly of public schools. " But, as public sentiment turned against testing and grew more sympathetic toward teachers and public schools, Cuomo in 2016 backed off, turning instead his attention to school funding.

Last year, on the heels of a little-known new requirement under the Every Student Succeeds Act that states report school-level spending, Cuomo signed a bill into law that not only requires districts that receive state funds to report out school-level spending patterns but to have those numbers scrutinized by his budget office. That process began earlier this month.

During his heated campaign against Nixon, he touted his $1 billion increase in state spending last year and told voters that, if elected, he would assure that districts spend its money on students who need it most.

“The real issue is the distribution of that money,” Cuomo said at a press conference in March. “We have an education inequality problem in this state.”

Nixon, who lost in a landslide, had said she would tax the state’s wealthiest residents and corporations to bring $7 billion more to schools.

Elsewhere in the country, progressive gubernatorial candidates in states such as Arizona and Florida in this year’s race are touting higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations as a way to pay for teacher raises and new school construction, among other things. And Republican gubernatorial candidates in Colorado and Oklahoma have, like Cuomo, expressed skepticism that school district officials spend their money on classrooms.

During an especially rowdy debate at Kansas’ state fair last week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach accused a school in Wichita of hiring 12 vice principals, a claim the district vehemently denied.

“My high school had one assistant principal, and I didn’t know what that guy did,” Kobach said. “Why does a school district, or a high school, need 12 assistant principals? We have got to stop spending so much money on administration and spend it instead in the classroom—on the teacher salaries and on the computers and books.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.