financial aid

Assembly spending plan includes statewide pre-K funds, extra $1 billion for schools

Legislative leaders from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State speech in January.

The Assembly’s budget proposal will boost school funding by nearly $1 billion for this school year and includes an extra $100 million for statewide prekindergarten services, according to details released Wednesday morning by Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office.

The statewide funding stream is on top of the Assembly’s proposed personal income tax on New York City residents earning more than $500,000. The surcharge would yield the $530 million in annual revenue that Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he needs to fund pre-K and after-school programs.

The proposal represents part of the budget framework that Silver will bring to the table as negotiations get underway with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate co-leaders Republican Dean Skelos and Independent Democratic Conference head Jeff Klein. The Assembly’s education plan spotlights some of the key differences that will have to be sorted out between now and the end of the month, when lawmakers are expected to sign off on a final budget.

One difference is on state aid. The Assembly’s aid increase of $970 million exceeds Cuomo’s executive budget by more than $400 million. More specifically, much of Cuomo’s increase was targeted at paying back $2.7 billion that was cut from schools through the Gap Elimination Adjustment back in 2010. But he did not include any money for a different funding mechanism, known as Formula Aid, which distributes aid based on student need and how capable a district is of raising its own local revenue. The Assembly’s budget includes $335 million in foundation aid and $367 million toward the GEA, which is about $50 million more than Cuomo’s proposal.

Another is on pre-K funding. Cuomo has said repeatedly he will oppose de Blasio’s tax and Skelos yesterday said the plan was “dead two months ago.” The Assembly’s statewide pre-K proposal matches Cuomo’s proposal, however.

The increase falls short of what more than 80 Democrats in both houses and funding advocates say is needed for cash-strapped school districts. A group of lawmakers and advocates, including Education Chair Catherine Nolan, have said that schools need an extra $1.9 billion to make up for severe cuts made during the economic recession have said that schools need an extra $1.9 billion to make up for severe cuts from the economic recession.

The Assembly’s spending plan for education totals $22.2 billion, a 6.2% increase over last year’s budget. The increase is more in line with what the $1 billion total that the state Board of Regents is asking for.


The plan is the largest increase in education funding in five years and is part of a four-year proposal to increase state aid by $1 billion annually.

“We simply cannot let any child slip through cracks of an under-funded and neglected educational system,” Speaker Silver said in a statement.

Nolan, who had formally asked for more money, said in a statement that the increase nonetheless “addresses the funding challenges that many school districts face across the state, all the while ensuring that each and every child is given the same chance at a bright and successful future.”

The proposal includes some of what Cuomo has prioritized in his executive budget proposal. In fact, it will expand Cuomo’s $2 billion Smart School Bond Act by $317 million, which would be set aside for non-public schools and districts.

Other highlights of the Assembly’s budget, per the Speaker’s office:

— $14.3 million to restore funding for Teacher Resources and Computer Training Centers

— $6 million for aid to nonpublic schools as well as an additional $5 million for prior year claims for the Comprehensive Attendance Policy programs

— $2 million for Library Aid

— $1.5 million for the Consortium for Worker Education.

— $1 million for Bilingual Education Grants

— $1 million for Adult Literacy Education

— $475,000 for the Executive Leadership Institute.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.