New Funding is in Addition to Dramatic 6.1 Percent Education Aid Increase as part of 2015-16 State Budget
Fund Will Meet Outstanding Needs of City of Yonkers to Avoid Detrimental Layoffs and Cuts
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today unveiled the Upstate Distressed Schools Fund, a new initiative designed to provide additional state support to New York's neediest school districts – particularly those in Upstate with a high concentration of schools designated as "failing" by the State Education Department. The Fund complements the $75 million included in the 2015-16 State Budget to help turn around the state's worst 27 failing schools, and will meet the outstanding needs of the City of Yonkers for the Board of Education to avoid laying off as many as 200 staff including 60 teachers and eliminating sports programs.
"This fund recognizes that while state education aid is at record levels, some of our largest school districts particularly Upstate require additional investments in critical education programming that work in order to improve performance in our failing and distressed schools," Governor Cuomo said. "After five years of responsible budgets, the State is in a strong financial position to provide much needed support and relief to school districts that need it the most. This funding will help transform our state's most underperforming schools and change outcomes for our children."
The Governor unveiled the Upstate Distressed School Fund today at Yonkers City Hall following a meeting with state lawmakers and Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano. Yonkers, which has a large deficit due to a recent local accounting error, is one of the largest school districts in New York and includes multiple failing schools, making the district eligible for a portion of the Fund. If Yonkers were not to receive the funding, it could be forced to lay off as many as 200 teachers, administrators and support staff next year. Of the 200 layoffs, 60 teachers would be cut from various programs district-wide and the district would no longer offer sports programs.
The Upstate Distressed School Fund will provide grants for capital and operating expenses that will enable districts to dedicate more resources to improve students' test scores and graduation rates and builds on the groundbreaking education reforms contained in the Education Transformation Act of 2015. The $100 million Fund complements the landmark increase in public school funding included in this year’s budget, which brought total education spending to its highest level ever, at $23.5 billion this fiscal year.
The Fund will be available to school districts that demonstrate acute financial need and preference for funds will be given to districts with high concentrations of schools designated as "failing" by the State Education Department. Funds can be used to improve failing and other under-performing schools and will help the estimated 60,000 students enrolled in 87 failing schools across the state.
Districts will develop and submit spending plans for approval by the Division of Budget.
Member of Assembly J. Gary Pretlow said, "I want to thank Governor Cuomo for stepping up for Yonkers in this time of need and once again putting New York's students first. Funding provided to Yonkers through the Upstate Distressed Schools Fund is critical to providing quality education for Yonkers' 27,000 students and avoiding drastic cuts. The Governor understands that making important investments like this is critical to improving the lives of all New Yorkers, and I look forward to gaining the support of my colleagues to now pass this in Albany."
City of Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said, "Today’s announcement is great news for Yonkers Public School parents, students and teachers. Thanks to Governor Cuomo, Yonkers is no longer forced to cut important programs and critical resources that tens of thousands of students rely on. As the City of Yonkers continues to identify ways to ensure a sustainable and quality education for years to come, we are grateful for the cooperation and partnership with the Governor and the State Legislature that is on display today."
Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "Last year's discovery of a $55 million accounting error on the part of the Yonkers school district has threatened additional cuts to staff and essential programs like art and sports. We thank Governor Cuomo for partnering with the delegation and the city to solve this immediate crisis and to find a long-term solution. We know how important public education is and in cooperation with Governor Cuomo, the State Legislature has been a longtime proponent of investing in public education. The Upstate Distressed Schools Fund builds on this unprecedented support to provide critical assistance to schools across New York – especially in Yonkers, where the wellbeing of an entire community was threatened."
Senator George Latimer said, "Faced with a crippling deficit, families across Yonkers have lived in a dark cloud of uncertainty for a while – but Governor Cuomo has given us a path through that darkness. Our job now is to embark on a bipartisan effort to get the Upstate Distressed Schools Fund passed – for the students of Yonkers and struggling districts all across New York. One of this state's founding promises is opportunity and together, we can ensure a more promising future for our children."
Member of Assembly Shelley Mayer said, "Thanks to the Upstate Distressed Schools Fund, Yonkers can now continue to move forward. The threat of cuts and layoffs was an emotional issue for our students, staff and community and we are thankful for the leadership of Governor Cuomo – that he has lit a path forward for Yonkers and schools in need of additional support across New York. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature in the days ahead to get this passed."
About Failing Schools
A school is designated as “failing” if it is in the bottom five percent of schools statewide based on combined English language arts and math scores, is not showing progress in test performance, or has graduation rates that are below 60 percent for the last three years.
In total, more than 109,000 students currently attend New York's 178 failing schools. A total of 77 of these schools have been failing for 10 years, and 27 have been in the lowest level of accountability status for nearly a decade. Statewide, more than 9 out of 10 students in failing schools are minority or poor.