Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was not satisfied with the surprising announcement that New York City’s steep budget penalty would be temporary, but his education committee chair said she thinks the news could could ease budget negotiations in Albany.
“To me that means we’re halfway there,” Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan said today during the legislature’s joint hearing on the state’s proposed education budget.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Assembly, and the State Senate have each proposed spending plans and they must come to a consensus before the end of the month. This year, because Passover and Easter fall at the end of March, legislators are shooting for a final budget by next week, which means they must strike a deal by the end of the weekend to meet timeline requirements.
A main point of contention in the budget talks has been the $240 million in increased state school aid that New York City is set to forgo because it did not adopt a new teacher evaluation system. According to the law Cuomo convinced legislators to pass last year, districts without new evaluations on Jan. 17 would not receive an increase in state school aid this year.
Districts’ annual school aid increases are important not only because they fuel the year’s spending but because they increase the size of the base upon which the next year’s aid is calculated. So losing out on school aid this year should mean that the city Department of Education’s state funding would always be lower than if the city had adopted new evaluations this year.
With legislators clamoring for the funding to be restored, Cuomo said on Tuesday that he had not been operating under that assumption. According to the New York Post, he said that in future, “we’re starting at the place of what they would have been” receiving had the city adopted new evaluations.
Silver said he still wants the cuts — which a judge has at least temporarily put on hold — to be completely restored, as his proposed budget would do. The Senate’s budget proposal does not include a restoration.
State Sen. John Flanagan, the Senate’s education committee chair, did not mention the city’s education aid package during the hearing today. But he noted that the Assembly and Senate already agree on many elements of the education budget, saying there are “25 to 30 areas of agreement.”
“I think we can work it out,” Nolan said.