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Assembly Ed Chair Cathy Nolan: Eliminating the foundation aid formula is ‘completely unacceptable’

Catherine Nolan, chair of the Assembly education committee.
Catherine Nolan, chair of the Assembly education committee.

State officials made it clear on Tuesday that they will not let a decade-old formula designed to allocate more education funding to high-needs schools die without a fight.

“Any repeal of foundation aid in this budget,” said Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who chairs the education committee. It’s “just completely unacceptable.”

At issue is a funding formula created in response to a lawsuit claiming that funding inequities deny students a sound basic education. The governor’s proposal does not include a commitment to fully phase in the formula, which would include roughly $4.3 billion in additional funding for state schools. Some advocates have called that a “repeal” of foundation aid.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office sees the situation differently. His office says the total phase-in is not legally binding or realistic, and declining to phase in the formula does not negate Cuomo’s support for needy schools. The governor proposed an additional $428 million increase in foundation aid this year alone.

On Tuesday, legislators and policymakers had a chance to voice their support for fully phasing in the formula during a legislative budget hearing on education — and they did.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said the proposal the Regents put forward this year, which includes approximately triple the governor’s proposed investment in foundation aid, is “critical” and urged the legislature to stick to a commitment to phase in the formula. Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña also said the full phase-in is critical to funding New York City schools.

Carl Marcellino, the Republican chair of the Senate education committee, asked Elia to explain why the additional funds were needed. She said the governor’s executive budget lacks enough funding for English learners, pre-kindergarten, and support for teachers and principals.

“When you look at the investments that you see in the executive budget,” Elia said, “there are some major voids.”

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