Funding equity that takes into account the unique needs of individual school districts and communities will be the City School District of Albany’s top legislative advocacy priority for the 2024-25 school year.
The Board of Education adopted the district’s legislative priorities at its Nov. 2 meeting. Developed this fall by the board’s Government Relations Committee, the district’s 2024-25 priorities begin with the critical need for funding equity now that the state has followed through on its commitment to fully fund Foundation Aid for all districts statewide.
The district strongly believes that, moving forward, school funding formulas must take into account the unique needs of individual districts and communities in a more intentional way than the current Foundation Aid formula does. This is especially critical as districts plan for the end of one-time federal COVID-19 relief funds, which expire next September.
Unique circumstances for Albany include:
- 63% of our city’s property is tax-exempt, leaving the owners of 37% of the property to pay 100% of the tax bill
- Charter school expenses are nearing $40 million annually and growing
- ENL enrollment is again growing significantly, with 327 new students enrolled in the district from July 1-Oct. 31:
- 42% increase over 2022
- 48% increase over 2021
- 153% increase over 2020
Additional legislative priorities for the 2024-25 budget-development cycle are (follow each link to read the full brief in each area):
- Equitable prekindergarten funding – As an early implementer of full-day pre-k (1990), our district continues to be impacted by the state’s pre-K funding inequities
- More than half of our 865 pre-K seats are funded at an outdated half-day rate
- The district spends more than $1 million annually ($1.3 million in the current year) to subsidize this funding shortfall
- Expanding and diversifying the recruitment and retention of new teachers
- We applaud the state’s efforts to address looming teacher shortages
- In September, Gov. Hochul included Albany in the first round of grant funding through the new Empire State Teacher Residency Program ($150,000 to support five teacher residencies)
- The district is requesting $300,000 to support a partnership with the Albany Public School Teachers Association to create a teaching pathway for middle school and high school students, culminating in state TA certification
- Investments in social-emotional and mental health supports – As we continue to rebuild from the pandemic, anxiety and depression over financial instability, health risks, social isolation and loss of opportunities have compounded stress for teens and families, especially in communities like Albany in which the impacts of poverty are pervasive.
- The district is requesting $500,000 to support a new alternative pathway for students who do not complete eighth grade successfully, and
- $350,000 to support four new school counselors to reduce caseload
- Regulatory and fiscal relief from the oversaturation of charter schools
- In Albany, 23% of the K-12 students attending publicly funded schools attend charter schools, among the highest percentages in New York and nationally
- Our district will send nearly $40 million to charter schools this school year – equal to 33% of the education tax dollars Albany residents will pay in 2023-24
- Albany charters also educate far lower percentages of students with disabilities and English-language learners, contrary to requirements in state law
The board also has identified these additional areas of focus for conversations this fall and winter with state elected leaders and government officials:
- An early voting option for school district budget votes and board elections (read the resolution the board submitted to the New York State School Boards Association last summer)
- Revisions to the state’s receivership law to provide more support for schools and remove punitive consequences that perpetuate deeply help perceptions about low-performing schools and the communities they serve (read the resolution the board submitted to the New York State School Boards Association last summer)
- Continue to strongly oppose proposals that would consolidate expense-driven aids
- The previous state administration advocated for the consolidation of multiple expense-based aids, including transportation, special education, BOCES and instructional material aids, into a single new Services Aid category. The growth of reimbursement no longer would be tied to actual expenditures, but would instead be capped annually based on district enrollment and inflation.
- The district has strongly opposed this proposal, and continues to advocate against consolidating expense-driven aids.