- Foundation Aid is not being implemented as per its original design of "adequacy and equity"
- The Schenectady City School District receives just more than half of the Foundation Aid that the formula dictates the district should receives.
- Ninety-seven percent of districts in the state are being funded at higher rates, some at much higher rates without consideration of wealth.
- New York State schools with a non-white majority, such as Schenectady, are disparately impacted and discriminated against.
- The Schenectady City School District struggled with a staggering financial deficit that persisted for years. Between 2011 and 2015, the district was forced to make cuts and close budget gaps totaling more than $25 million.
- When the school district is shorted of funding, the children are being starved of necessary resources.
- Schenectady residents are burdened with an elevated tax rate.
State and federal governments sometimes create laws and regulations that don't come with the necessary funding and consequently result with a hefty financial burden on school districts.
Many times, in order to fulfill a mandate, the school district must reduce or cut programs and services that are very important but non-mandated.
We must ask our elected officials to ensure that new mandates come with funding so that school districts are not further financially burdened.
Background on Foundation Aid
Following a 2006 court order in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, New York adopted a new finance formula that was designed to adjust for need and cost in each school district. The formula was set so that prioritized funding would go to the neediest school districts in the state and to ensure that school districts can provide every student with a sound basic education. As a result of the formula, it was determined that Schenectady would receive $135,323,105 annually, the amount deemed necessary to provide a sound basic education.
When enacted, the state committed to a phase-in from 2007 through 2010-2011. During the first two years, school districts received expected increases. But, in April 2009, the governor and legislature enacted a budget that froze the Foundation Aid at 2008-2009 amounts for both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years. In addition, it was determined that aid would be phased in over seven years instead of four.
That same year, a Deficit Reduction Assessment (DRA) of $1.097 billion was applied across the board. The money was removed from school aid to help close New York State's fiscal deficit. Consequently, Foundation Aid fell below the "freeze" level of 2008-2009.
In order to make up the loss in school aid, the Federal ARRA funds known as the State Fiscal Stabiliation Funds (SFSF) were added in and used to close the $1.097 billion hole created by DRA. The money restored Foundation Aid back to the 2008-2009 funding level.
When SFSF was applied, distribution was not aligned with the original intent of the lawsuit - to prioritze funding to the neediest districts nor was it determined to make an "adequate adjustment."
Not only did SFSF distribution not meet the intent of the Foundation Aid, but it instead, resulted in less equitable distribution of school aid, hurting high-need districts like Schenectady. Today, Schenectady receives millions of dollars less than what it should be receiving according to the formula. Meanwhile, many districts in the state are receiving much higher levels of funding without consideration of need. In fact, some districts receive more than 100 percent of the aid they should be receiving.
It's unfair to the children of Schenectady.
We must ask our elected officials to ensure that state aid is distributed equitably by considering differences in community costs, needs and resources. Foundation Aid should be distributed based on its original principles and design, to ensure adequacy, equity and the ability to provide a sound basic education for every student.