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The New York State capitol.

The New York State capitol.

Chalkbeat file photo

The final answer: School spending gets a billion-dollar boost

New York lawmakers reached a budget deal late Friday night that includes an extra $1 billion for education spending and new reporting requirements for funding that may be unpopular with school districts.

The total amount spent on schools is more than Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s suggested $769 million increase. It is also similar to the $1.1 billion boost schools received last year, when there was less consternation among lawmakers and policymakers about the difficult state of the budget.  

Public education issues, which typically loom large in state budget negotiations, appeared less contentious this year than in years past. However, a controversy over whether private yeshivas should be exempt from certain state standards threatened to prevent a final budget deal.

Cuomo was also able to secure some school funding transparency and oversight measures. Certain school districts — including New York City — will need to submit to the state what they plan to spend on each school starting in the 2018-19 school year.

This is sooner than the requirements to report school-based funding would kick in under federal law, said Bob Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

School funding transparency has been one of the major education issues in this year’s budget for Cuomo. He has argued that the crucial education funding question facing the state is how districts divvy up money among individual schools.

“The real issue is the distribution of that money,” Cuomo said during a press conference on Friday night. “We have an education inequality problem in this state.”

However, Cuomo’s original proposal, which would have allowed state officials to approve school district budgets, was roundly criticized by top state education officials and education advocates as an overreach of state power. Cuomo said that the final proposal is more focused on transparency than state approval.

“We don’t approve or disapprove,” Cuomo said. “Our only role is, give us the correct information and then we disclose it.”

A number of other smaller education initiatives also made it into the budget, including $50 million in additional funds for “community schools,” which provide additional services to students such as healthcare. Cuomo also announced that his budget includes efforts to fight school hunger.  

Lawmakers must still approve the budget deal before it becomes final.