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Douglas Huntley

Superintendent Douglas Huntley

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a $956 million increase to education spending in his State of the State address on Tuesday, bringing the state total to $27.7 billion.

This number falls well short of what many education advocacy groups from around the state were hoping for, according to Queensbury Superintendent Douglas Huntley.

“Districts are experiencing increased needs from poverty, changes in enrollment and special education,” Huntley said. “I believe, in the field of education, there is a ways to go.”

David Albert, communications director for the New York State School Boards Association, agreed and said his organization and others, such as the Board of Regents, requested much more.

“We requested a $2.2 billion increase in school aid,” Albert said. “His proposal is about half of what was requested by the educational community.”

Albert said oftentimes the governor’s budget is a starting point and that the Legislature is likely to add more to the budget later, but if it was passed without changes it would stress school budgets across the state.

In his speech, Cuomo said New York already spends more than twice the national average per pupil, and that the state needed to be smarter about where the money goes. He said 70 percent of funds are routed to the poorest school districts, but do not necessarily make it to the poorest schools within those districts.

“We thought we were funding the poorest schools, but we weren’t,” Cuomo said. “That assumption was flawed.”

Cuomo announced he will pursue legislation that mandates state funds be distributed to the poorest schools within districts, a decision Albert said should be left for school boards to decide. This is unlikely to have much of an effect on schools in this area, though, as most districts do not have multiple schools at any grade level.

Roughly one-third of the 3.6 percent increase will go directly to Foundation Aid, the general fund for public schools in the state. An additional $15 million would go to districts that expand pre-kindergarten programs in high-need districts, as well as $10 million for after-school care expansion in high-need communities, according to the New York budget website.

Cuomo also proposed changes to the Excelsior Scholarship, which provides full tuition costs for New York students attending SUNY or CUNY schools for households whose combined income is less than $110,000. He said he wants to raise the threshold to incomes under $125,000 to offer even more students an opportunity to pursue higher education.

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Samuel Northrop is the education reporter for The Post-Star. He can be reached at snorthrop@poststar.com.

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