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NY Schools Face Uncertain Financial Future

New York state Capitol
Jim Levulis
New York state Capitol

The New York State School Boards Association says schools are bracing for teacher layoffs over the next year, as schools, which have been closed for weeks, face uncertain funding in the new school year.

Schools across New York are struggling to cope with mandatory closures, distance learning and uncertain funding. The New York State School Boards' David Albert says even though for now schools are set to receive the same amount of aid they got last year, they still need to brace for cut backs.

Albert says while the recently approved state budget keeps school funding even with last year’s allocation, it’s uncertain whether that money will still be available by the time school will presumably start again next September.

Governor Cuomo has powers to revise the budget downward if revenues continue to plummet.

Albert, speaking via Skype, predicts some teachers and other school staff will lose their jobs.

“I do think we will see layoffs,” Albert said.

Albert says another option is for schools to renegotiate their contracts with teachers, and perhaps delay planned raises. He says he sees one sign of hope- the federal bailout plan includes $1.1 billion for school districts across the state, which he says will go a long ways toward stabilizing districts’ finances.   

One of the many things that are on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic is school budget and school board member votes, which were scheduled for the third week in May. Albert says the votes have been postponed until at least June 1, and he says schools are awaiting word from Governor Cuomo for a new date.

“We just don’t know,” Albert said. “That’s one of those areas where there’s a great deal of uncertainty.”

Albert says amid the gloom, there’s a glimmer of good news. He says schools are finding out just how important they are to their regions.

“They really are woven into the fabric of their communities,” said Albert.

He says districts are doing much more than teaching students, they are arranging for child care, meals, and bus services.

“It’s one of the few bright spots that has come out of this experience,” he said.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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