Senate Majority Leader Flanagan is Number #1 Beneficiary of School Funding Plan He is Spearheading as Chief Education Priority
EffectiveNY released new data this morning that illuminates one of the core school aid issues still being debated in the ongoing budget negotiations in Albany: whether to prioritize the 100% repayment of the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GAP) or allocate those funds toward the huge shortfall in funding of the Foundation Aid formula, which would benefit poorer school districts.
If there were enough money to fully pay for both Foundation Aid and the GEA there would be no issue of contention, but in the final budget negotiations there is likely to be a competition between the two as to where funds should go.
At the very beginning of the legislative session, New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan asserted, “The Senate’s top education funding priority this year will be the complete elimination of the GEA.” The State Senate passed Flanagan’s GEA plan on one of the first days of the legislative session.
As for the other parties involved in the ongoing budget negotiations, Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed a two-year phase out of the GEA and the State Assembly majority is pushing to prioritize the funding of Foundation Aid, a formula first enacted in 2007 in response to the New York State Court of Appeals’ Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit ruling with the aim of combatting inequality.
The new data released by EffectiveNY, a nonprofit public policy think tank and government watchdog group, ranks New York’s State Senators in order of how much money schools in their districts will receive in GEA funding under the Senate’s plan.
The rankings demonstrate that 8 of the 9 Senate districts that benefit the most from the GEA are in the downstate suburban region. The top 5 are all Long Island Senate districts. Topping the list is Majority Leader Flanagan’s district, which would receive $30 million in GEA funding.
By contrast, all of the upstate districts, except one, would receive less than half as much as Majority Leader Flanagan’s. Fifteen districts would receive less than $10 million in GEA. At the bottom of the list is State Senator Catharine Young’s district, whose schools would receive only $3.6 million.
According to the numbers compiled by EffectiveNY, Majority Leader Flanagan’s district would receive more GEA funding than the five lowest-ranking Senate districts combined—all of which are in upstate New York. These five lowest-ranking Senate districts are represented respectively by Senator Catharine Young ($3.6 million), Senator Timothy Kennedy ($4 million), Senator Patty Ritchie ($4.7 million), Senator Joseph Griffo ($5.7 million) and Senator Frederick Akshar ($6.7 million). The full numbers by Senate District are shown in Table 1 below.
“We have huge inequities in our public schools and the Senate plan would only widen those inequities,” said Bill Samuels, EffectiveNY’s Founder. “Our data sheds light on why Majority Leader Flanagan and his fellow Senate majority members from Long Island are making GEA their number one priority. What is less clear is why upstate Senators are prioritizing Long Island school districts at the expense of their own schools.”
“If we are serious about addressing education funding inequality across the state this session, a more fair solution is to prioritize funding of the Foundation Aid formula before repayment of the Gap Elimination Adjustment,” continued Samuels. “We should be seeing Senators Young, Ritchie, Griffo and other upstate senators crowing from the rafters to make Foundation Aid their number one education priority.”
For high-need upstate districts the funding of Foundation Aid is demonstrably preferable as it would provide more funding for the neediest school districts. Table 2 below looks at five high-need upstate school districts. It compares how much Foundation Aid and how much GEA funding is owed to each of the districts. It then provides an estimate of how much additional Foundation Aid each district would receive if the $434 million that the Senate Majority has budgeted to pay off the GEA is instead allocated to Foundation Aid.
The contrast between how much Foundation Aid each of these upstate districts is owed compared to how little GEA they are owed is dramatic. In each instance the GEA is almost negligible. By contrast if the $434 million that the Senate is pushing for GEA were instead to go to Foundation Aid each district would get a sizable amount of additional funding. The last column in Table 2 provides an estimate of how much additional Foundation Aid each of these districts would receive if the $434 million were distributed as Foundation Aid instead of GEA.
|School District||Senator||Foundation Aid Owed||GEA Owed||Estimate of additional Foundation Aid*|
|Utica||Griffo|| $46,934,039||$17,063|| $4,587,029|
|Jamestown||Young|| $14,030,136|| $11,447|| $1,371,215|
|Hornell||O’Mara|| $4,977|| $381,162|
|Poughkeepsie||Serino|| $9,308,578||$26,900|| $909,760|
|Amsterdam||Amedore|| $11,289,070|| $8,722|| $1,103,321|
* The estimate in the last column was derived by first calculating out of the $4.4 billion in total Foundation Aid owed statewide what proportion of that total is owed to each individual school district. This proportion is used to then estimate how much additional Foundation Aid would go to each district if the $434 million that the Senate Majority is pushing to be allocated to GEA were instead to go to Foundation Aid.