Syracuse, N.Y. — Struggling city school districts that have been fighting decades for equal state aid funding get their payday in the $212 billion state budget passed last night.
High-needs schools districts will get three years of extra money, followed by a commitment to fully fund them in the following years.
The payout is the long-awaited final chapter of a lawsuit filed nearly 30 years ago, demanding equal state funding for low-income communities serving mostly Black and Brown students.
The Campaign for Fiscal Equity won the suit in 2007, but the courts had little ability to force the state to pay districts what they were owed or use the new formula. That was up to the governor and the legislature.
“I’m over the moon about it,” said Sen. Rachel May, D-Syracuse, whose daughter graduated from the Syracuse school district.
Syracuse stands to receive a total of $90 million in backpay from the state over the next three years, May said. The district of 20,000 students was underfunded by roughly $2,200 per student.
This year, the backpay will be about $15 million on top of the city’s $285 million state aid; it increases to $30 million next year and $45 million the following year. After that, the Legislature committed to using the revised formula to fully fund the districts. The city school district’s budget is $480 million for 2021-22.
North Syracuse stands to receive more than $13 million and Liverpool will receive more than $8 million in backpay.
None of this money will be substituted for other aid, May said.
She said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s budget sought to shift the Covid relief money the federal government gave school districts to fill state aid gaps, but the legislature killed those efforts.
“Especially this year, when we see how the schools have a struggled and how important they are to our lives, our communities our families. I think it got much harder to say, ‘I think we should squeeze them’,” May said.
The budget also has $105 million to fund full-day Pre-K in 210 mostly suburban school districts that currently do not receive state funding for the program.
Marnie Eisenstadt writes about people, public affairs and the Syracuse City School District. Contact her anytime email | Twitter| cell 315-470-2246.