MaryEllen Elia: 2019 Budget Priorities

Jan 8, 2019

Happy New Year to all of you, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.

Today, as we look toward the upcoming legislative session, I’d like to talk about the Board of Regents 2019 Budget and Legislative Priorities and our State Aid request for the 2019-20 school year.

The Board put forth a comprehensive agenda that will increase equity among all students through the Regents State Aid Proposal.

The Board has called for a $2.1 billion increase in education investments for the next school year to support schools through state aid and funding for English Language Learners, career and technical education, and universal prekindergarten programs.

The Board also advanced a bold and comprehensive set of funding proposals to best meet the needs of every student in New York.

As the Department continues to work toward ensuring that every student in our state receives the best education possible, the agenda recently announced will allow the State Education Department to work with schools across New York to provide students with a quality education in a productive learning environment.

Most importantly, the proposal would put the state on a committed path to fully phasing-in the Foundation Aid formula for our schools most in need.

This would be achieved through a combination of three targeted increases:

First, the formula would include a uniform percentage phase-in increase for all districts that have a remaining phase-in.

Second, all schools districts would see a minimum state aid increase to meet growing expenses.

Finally, the Board calls for a new $85 million English Language Learner set-aside within Foundation Aid, to accelerate additional aid to districts with ELL students. In addition, the Regents support providing these students with the opportunity to test in their native language.

The Board proposes an increase of $410 million in statutory reimbursement-based aid; an additional $25 million to expand career and technical education programs; and $26 million to further expand universal prekindergarten classes.

As some of you may recall, in 2017, based on the recommendation of the Board of Regents, the Governor and Legislature put the state on a path toward the consolidation of the multiple separate prekindergarten programs that existed at that time.

Building on that success, the Regents State Aid Proposal includes a total of $26 million for further expansion of programs for four-year-olds.

First, $20 million would allow for the addition of 2,000 more children to be served, which would bring the overall percentage of students served in New York State to just under 70 percent.

Second, $6 million would be provided for pilot programs to create a single reimbursement structure for prekindergarten inclusion programs by blending existing prekindergarten and preschool special education funding mechanisms.

The Regents and the Department remain committed to ensuring that all students, regardless of background, zip code, first language or disability, have equitable opportunities to prepare for college, careers and civic engagement.

The State’s ESSA plan also emphasizes fostering equity in education for all students in New York State and providing support to schools as they work to ensure that every student succeeds.

Proposals to work toward achieve true equity include enhancing the supportive school grants program, expanding access to advanced coursework, supporting the state’s access and opportunity programs, enhancing services for students with disabilities and increasing opportunities for our Dreamers.

Finally, the Board of Regents has proposed efficiency actions to enhance and streamline core Department and school district functions aimed at improving overall operations.

A full description of the Board’s proposals and priorities can be found on the Department’s website at www-dot-nysed-dot-gov.

I think we can all agree that an investment in our education infrastructure is an investment in our children’s future. I look forward to working with the Legislature and the Executive as we build on the promise of a brighter future for New York’s students.

MaryEllen Elia is New York State Education Commissioner.

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