Members of the Assembly Republican Conference joined parents and education stakeholders on January 22 to share their concerns about and express their opposition to a proposal in Governor Kathy Hochul’s executive budget that would do away with the “hold harmless” provision for school funding assistance. They said the proposal as stated would cause irreparable harm to certain school districts statewide negatively impacting children’s education as more money is being diverted to the migrant crisis.
In response, conference members have started a petition calling on Hochul to restore school funding for the upcoming school year. The executive budget proposal would cut $168 million in Foundation Aid from 337 school districts across the state, including 44 on Long Island. Meanwhile, Hochul has allocated $2.4 billion from state reserves to provide aid to migrants who are currently residing in New York.
“Our children should always come first, end of story,” said Doug Smith (R,C-Holbrook). “Governor Hochul doubles down on funding migrants while retracting the state’s commitment to responsibly funding our schools. This change will hurt schools throughout the state leading to profound impacts on both rural and suburban schools that are already struggling to make ends meet.”
Ari Brown (R-Cedarhurst) pointed out that that state spent over $1 billion on the migrant crisis last year “and the crisis was not solved.”
Ed Flood (R,C-Port Jefferson) — whose district consists of the Three Village, Mount Sinai and Port Jefferson School Districts — said cuts to education at these schools will result in building closures, layoffs, elimination of extracurricular activities and a reduction in funding for special education programs. “Our children’s education must be prioritized to ensure they are equipped for bright futures ahead.”
In addition, the reduction in state aid for Long Island schools will result in an increase in property taxes, according to Jarett Gandolfo (R.C-Sayville). “[T]hat money should instead be used to ensure no school district sees a reduction in their school aid.”
The governor should at least keep the funding at the same level as last year, said John Mikulin (R,C-Bethpage). The lack of educational prospects is “breaking up families,” he said, and that Hochul would rather help unvetted migrants “rather than take action to protect” Long Island’s children.
But one member of the Assembly from across the other side of the aisle seemed optimistic that the governor will reinstate aid to the schools. Appearing on Jay Oliver’s radio show on LI News Radio (103.9 FM), Charles D. Lavine (D-Glen Cove) emphasized that this is “an initial budget” and that he was “beyond confident” that “the school districts that are losing money on Long Island … will have those funds restored.”
When Oliver asked him about the $2.4 billion aid for migrants, Lavine defended Hochul’s budget, pointing out the increase in funding for mental health, including for school children and the homeless. As for the migrant crisis, he said that amount of money is “absolutely necessary” and said that the migrant crisis is the responsibility of the GOP-dominated House of Representatives, which is “doing nothing at all” to fix the situation.
But fellow Democrat Fred Thiele (D-Sag Harbor) vowed not to support Hochul’s budget unless the Foundation Aid funding is reinstated. What was supposed to be an agreement between school districts and the state to provide funding for the schools over the next three years has fallen apart, Thiele said.
“The governor’s proposal [to decrease Foundation Aid funding] reneges on that commitment just one year later,” Thiele said in a statement. “It would violate the compact between the state and local school districts to provide a quality education to every child. The losers would be both the local taxpayer and our children.”
According to Ed Ra (R-Franklin Square), half of the schools in the state will see a decrease in their Foundation Aid because the money is going to the migrants. “This is an irresponsible way to distribute public money,” he said. “If the governor is looking for ways to save dollars, it can’t come at the expense of education.”