State aid to schools is expected to increase when the state budget is passed. No one knows yet quite how much local districts can expect to receive, but the total statewide is about $1 billion.
The additional money is sure to make life a little easier for school administrators as they put the finishing touches on the upcoming year's school budgets, but we caution state officials to spend money on education carefully.
The state's 2 percent tax-levy cap was designed to force tough decisions about local government spending. Schools have responded by tightening their belts.
The state also is asking schools to do more and should help pay for it. The advent of the Common Core standards in New York is changing the way schools teach and increasing the administrative duties on school districts. Teacher evaluations are another added layer of expense on districts. The state still has to have its discussion about a longer school day, which could mean more pay for teachers and added costs for school districts. Schools are being required to do more by the state, and the state should bear some of that cost in the form of increased state aid.
Priority should be given to school districts like Tupper Lake, which was pressured by the state into making deep cuts and yet is being squeezed further, to the point that officials are talking of possible insolvency in the near future. The current state aid formula, if it continues, would put this school district out of business, with others not far behind. Does anyone in Albany really want that?
Yet we also know from years of experience that simply throwing more money at public education won't magically make New York's education system better. State legislators must remember this as they finalize the state budget.