Board of Regents seeks 6% increase in NY education aid

ALBANY The state Board of Regents on Monday recommended a 6 percent increase in state education funding next fiscal year, saying the $1.3 billion increase is needed for struggling districts and pre-kindergarten programs.

Schools have received a 4 percent annual increase in state aid since 2012 after years of flat or declining funding. The proposal calls for school aid to increase from nearly $21 billion to $22.3 billion for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which starts April 1.

The proposal included a $700 million increase in general education aid and $125 million to fund universal pre-kindergarten, which is a top priority for incoming New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio is expected to push Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers to fund pre-kindergarten programs in the city.

"The Board of Regents state aid proposal is an important step toward funding equity to make sure schools have the resources they need, and their teachers have the training and professional development they need to make sure every student graduates college and career ready," Chancellor Merryl Tisch said in a statement. "The board will vigorously advocate for these necessary funds."

Cuomo will release his budget proposal on Jan. 21. Lawmakers will have until March 31 to adopt the roughly $135 billion budget.

The request for additional aid comes as the state Education Department is implementing new teacher evaluations and tougher standardized tests, called the Common Core.

The proposal included $125 million for an instructional development fund to help with training and teaching for Common Core. The program has been heavily criticized by parents, teachers and students for being rushed into implementation last school year.

The Education Department said it is reducing the number of questions and testing time on the federally required assessments for third through eighth grades. The budget request included additional money to further reduce testing and eliminate stand alone, multiple choice tests.

The Education Department said that as Common Core expands to high schools, students will be given the option of taking the old form of certain Regents exams alongside the Common Core versions to help smooth the transition.

"Schools across the state are responding to the Common Core in innovative ways," Education Commissioner John King said in a statement. "But, as with all large scale change efforts, there are going to be challenges along the way. We know that professional development is crucial to successful implementation."


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