Albany Still Divided Over Restoring Cut School Aid To NYC
Albany leaders continue work on an early deal on the state budget, but a remaining point of sharp disagreement continues to be over lost school aid for New York City. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
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It began with just a threat last year. Governor Andrew Cuomo warned the teachers union and city officials that if they could not reach a deal on a new teacher evaluation system, the city would lose out on a 4-percent increase in state aid, or roughly $240 million.
Fast forward to this year, and the two sides missed the deadline. There is still no agreement, and now that state aid could be lost for good.
"Any of the school districts that missed the deadline paid the penalty, which was a one-time penalty of 4-percent increase for that year," said Cuomo.
State Assembly Democrats have been trying restore that lost $240 million in this year's budget. The courts have sided with them, but Cuomo refuses to budge.
"There is a lot of movement on a lot of issues but nothing is final. It's not ripe yet," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
But there was some movement on the side of the state Senate. The Independent Democrats who run the senate in a coalition with Republicans now seem to support a restoration. Previously they had sided with the governor.
"As far as the $250 million, which is a penalty that comes out of the base, I'd like to see a way that we can make that restoration," said Jeff Klein, the leader of the Independent Democratic Senate Conference. "Because I think that's an unfair way of penalizing the city. But we'll have to see, I don't know where we'll get the money from."
Going forward, the State Education Department will impose an evaluation system on the city, which would mean no more lost aid.
It's a different story for other districts that failed to come to terms.
"For the other school districts that don't have it in place, that is certainly true, because the other school districts do not have that backstop," Cuomo said. "So every year that they don't have the evaluation in place, they will pay the penalty once again for that year."
Insiders say Albany's top priority seems to be passing an early budget, so it seems like the issue of lost school aid will get resolved. There are any number of ways lawmakers can move money around, allowing both sides to claim victory.