Education Measures in New State Budget Boost Aid to Public Schools, Families with College Students

Apr 12, 2017

Westside Academy at Blodgett. Public Schools received increased funding in the state budget, but short of long-term goals
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

The newly-approved state budget makes impacts on public schools, as well as the ability to continue through college.  But increased education aid still leaves questions for schools and students. 

Always controversial, overall state aid to school districts rose more than a $1 billion in the state’s spending plan.  New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Tim Kremer thinks the extra aid hits the right targets.

“The total budget seems to be directed so that it is trying to attend to things like poverty and school districts that have a growth in population. English language learners and other special considerations.  In other words, those districts with the highest need are getting the most money and that’s the way it should be.”

He’s concerned federal policy could hurt public schools’ ability to teach students. 

Nottingham High School
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

Under the Trump administration and with Betsy DeVos as US Secretary of Education, they’ve been quite clear of their support for privatization of education for vouchers and charter schools.  To what extent are they going to shift federal funding for resources that support public education and over to resources that support private education initiatives?”

Proposed cuts to Medicaid could also reduce in-school services that help kids.  The $1.1 billion increase in aid did not sit well with everyone.  Groups such as the Alliance for Quality education called the Governor a ‘penny pincher’ for coming far short of the four billion owed schools from what were supposed to be temporary cuts several years ago.

COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY IMPROVED FOR MIDDLE CLASS

Students study and get snacks in OCC's Whitney Building. New measure could make tuition free to many stduents.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

Another measure in the budget makes college tuition free for eligible students.  Onondaga Community College President Casey Crabill says this might help families look at college in a new way.

“Many students right now, if they have great financial need, they’re getting help through TAP and PELL (aid programs).  But there are a great number of students whose family income is too high to get much assistance.  This program will help them a great deal.”

The Excelsior Scholarship will cover the cost of tuition at state institutions, including community colleges, for families making up to 125-thousand dollars.  Students need to work in the state for the same number of years they take the scholarship – or it converts to a student loan.  Crabill notes that broadens the program’s impact.

“It really is to make millionsure that when employers look at New York they say, ‘that place has an educated workforce because the entire State University is available to the students coming through.’”

Plus it helps forward the philosophy of an educated public.

OCC President Casey Crabill sees many advantages of the Excelsior Scholarship, including perhaps creating jobs and increasing enrollment.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

“When I came out of high school that was enough for people to get a great job, buy a house, raise a family,”  Crabill says.  “We now know that level of education is insufficient.  This is an acknowledgment that for many, many individuals, college is what’s required to have that level of self-sufficiency.” 

She believes O-C-C will see an enrollment boost…and some students will find it easier to stay in school.  They’re already answering questions people have about the scholarship details. 

Governor Cuomo spoke about the budget further in a visit to Syracuse Wednesday.  Both education measures were part of the state budget approved earlier this week.