Traditional Public Schools, Charters React To Cuomo Education Budget

Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s education proposals in his FY 17 Executive Budget left charter schools and their supporters relatively happy while getting a mixed reaction from supporters of traditional public schools and the United Federation of Teachers union.

Under Cuomo’s spending plan school aid will increase $2.1 billion over last year including an additional $22 million investment in prekindergarten to expand high quality half-day and full-day prekindergarten programs to three-year-olds in the highest need school districts.

Of this money, the executive budget also increases statewide funding for charter schools by $27 million so that they can continue to innovate, recruit high-quality teachers and staff, and provide a strong educational option for students and families. Further, the executive budget unfreezes the charter school tuition formula in New York City to allow local funding amounts to be reflective of the current economic environment. In addition, the budget makes permanent the calculation of rental aid for New York City charter schools.

The spending plan also allocates $100 million to turn-around the state’s 144 schools deemed failing massed on three years of math and English testing, and graduation rates. Of this money, $25 million is earmarked to other high-need school districts statewide that do not have a failing or persistently failing school. Schools will be able to use these funds for community school coordinators, before and after-school mentoring services, summer learning activities, health and dental care referrals and connections, and other strategies to maximize student achievement.

Eva Moskowitz
Eva Moskowitz

Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter School, said Cuomo took a critical step toward parity with the increased funding to charters schools.”Unequal funding has long plagued public charter school parents. This means so much for parents and public schools,” she said.

The pro parental choice in education organization StudentsFirstNY said the executive budget reflects Cuomo’s continued commitment to improving education in New York State.

“The Governor has laid down a strong marker that expands desperately needed quality school choices and supports high standards. The Governor is right in saying that parents need to have charters as a public school option and that New York must recruit and retain top teachers. Governor Cuomo has clearly heard parents’ calls for higher quality schools for their children,” said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis.

Also supporting the education side of the budget was the The New York City Coalition of Community Charter Schools (C3S), an advocacy group for over 50 public independent charter schools.

“C3S  applauds Governor Cuomo’s decision to increase charter school support and to unfreeze the charter school funding formula.  Furthermore, C3S cheer the Governor’s proposal to make rental assistance for New York City charter schools permanent.  Both of these proposals are steps towards equal funding for all New York City public school students,” the organization said in a statement.

“If enacted, the Governor’s budget is a beginning to finally redress the long-standing deficits in funding for public education, especially in low income communities,” added C3S Co-Director Dr. Rick Welles.

Jeremiah Kittredge, CEO, for Families for Excellent Schools, another pro charter school organization called Cuomo’s proposal, “a vital element of fixing funding inequity for charter schools. This budget will help end education inequality and strengthen excellent schools across the state.”

But Billy Easton, executive director of the pro traditional public schools Alliance for Quality Education, called Cuomo’s speech long on rhetoric and short on solutions that will work.

“It will maintain the tremendous educational inequities in our schools and will leave our schools without the resources they need to restore classroom cuts Governor Cuomo made in his first term. Our students will suffer unless the Governor and the legislature gets serious about fair funding for our schools,” said Easton.

While Easton praised the idea of converting struggling schools into community schools, he said the initiative is very underfunded. “Last year the Governor provided $75 million for 20 of these schools, this year he only promised $100 million for 124 schools so the numbers do not quite add up,” he said.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew had a cautiously optimistic response to the budget and Cuomo’s State of the State speech, noting the governor made little if any mention teacher evaluations and an emphasis on testing.

“We’ve come a long way from last year.  We still have some differences and issues to work on, but as far as teachers are concerned, there was a lot to like in the Governor’s speech,” said Mulgrew.