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December Legislative Advocacy Meetings with Erie County’s State Legislators Promote NY State Becoming a Full Partner in Funding School Districts

Posted Wednesday, December 20, 2017 - 11:48 AM

Working on behalf of Erie County Association of School Boards school districts, Dr. Bruce Fraser held a series of pre-legislative session meetings in December with state legislators who represent member districts.  Based upon the direction provided by the ECASB Legislative Team, Dr. Fraser pushed the idea that ECASB member districts expect Erie County’s state legislators to become, “Visible and vocal leaders who champion the cause of public education.”  In each meeting Dr. Fraser expressed ECASB membership frustration that issues like the number of charter schools approved to operate statewide; or, a push for a tax credit for donors that fund scholarships to non-public and parochial schools seemed to be higher concerns within some legislative conferences than support for the 120,000 students attending Erie County’s public schools.

Regarding financial support for Erie County public schools Dr. Fraser cited the following concerns in his meetings with our Erie County legislative representatives:

  • In 1990, New York State sent 23.8 cents of every dollar in revenue Albany received back to local school districts to support educational programs and take pressure off local tax payers, by 2015-16 that commitment had fallen to only nineteen cents of each dollar of state revenue.
  • During 2001-02, the state reached a high water mark with New York State supporting 48.6% of the statewide cost for providing PK-12 Education. The state’s level of support then tailed off, falling to as low as 39.7% in 2011-12.   For the last year complete data is available, data shows the state share rose to 41.7% (2015-16). Best estimates for 2017-18 indicate that state funding of PK-12 Education has only risen back to the mid 40% level (as local cost increases have been constrained by low inflation rates while relatively generous state aid increases have been provided the past two years).
  • New York State only ranked thirtieth in a fifty state comparison that examined the percentage of statewide PK-12 Education costs paid for by state funds (NEA Ranking of States).

The data cited above makes clear New York State significantly shifted the burden for supporting public schools back onto local school districts over the past decade. The impact of that shift of burden resulted in local school board members being simultaneously criticized by parents concerned about cuts to programs and staff, while at the same time enduring open resentment from property tax payers for failing to control local property tax increases.

When reduced educational offerings and higher local taxes have been the clear outcome of New York State backing away from the state’s constitutional responsibility to fund education, it becomes perfectly clear what actions must be taken to reverse this situation. The ECASB argues that the shift of burden for supporting education we have lived through the past decade can be readily reversed if New York State sets a goal to become a “Full Partner” funding fifty percent of the costs of PK-12 Education.  Realistically, this “Full Partnership” solution cannot be reached in one budget cycle.  That being noted, if Pk-12 Education and moderating, or reducing, local property tax burdens are a priority for Erie County’s representatives in Albany they will see fit to provide funding that moves New York State towards becoming a “Full Partner” in the funding of our state’s public schools!

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