New York state budget pledges to fully fund Foundation Aid formula

The New York State Capitol in Albany. Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A decades-long fight over education funding came to an end during this year’s state budget negotiations earlier this week after lawmakers agreed to funnel  $1.4 billion more towards Foundation Aid, New York state’s main source for public school funding, over the next three years. 

The Foundation Aid formula was created as the result of a 2006 court ruling, called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York, which argued the state financial system was denying New York City public school students their right to a  “sound, basic education.” 

For years, many state lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo had differing interpretations of the ruling resulting in a prolonged fight over the school funding. Cuomo argued the state had already filled its obligation under the ruling while advocates have long argued that the formula was underfunded by $4 billion. 

Now, the state will comply with the ruling resulting in over a billion more dollars for New York City public schools by 2023 as the system fights to recover after the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

“The children of our state won a crucial victory as New York state made a historic commitment to fully fund Foundation Aid for our public schools. Generations of parents, community leaders and students across New York state, year after year, have led the advocacy to hold New York to the promise of a sound, basic education for every child,” said Executive Director of Alliance for Quality Education Jasmine Gripper. 

“The fight to hold the State to its obligation to fund public education has always been deeply steeped in racial justice; the majority of Foundation Aid remaining is due to school districts with 40 percent or more Black and Latinx students. The full funding of Foundation Aid that will be provided to schools over the next three years represents a major step toward racial and economic equity in education.”

But while many education advocates celebrated the $4 billion boost to the formula, others worry the 2021-22 state budget is only providing short-term solutions for schools and that the formula is sending too much money to wealthier schools instead of those in serious need. 

“Over the long run this budget fails to balance much greater targeting of school aid to districts with the greatest needs with long-run fiscal sustainability, instead continuing to send billions of dollars to districts that already support a sound basic education with their own local resources and overly supplementing other wealthy districts,” said President of the Citizens Budget Commission Andrew S. Rein.  “Furthermore, this education aid increase is not combined with a plan to measure impact. New Yorkers deserve to know how the massive spending increase will improve learning and social outcomes for students. “