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What you need to know for 07/26/2017

Partisan aid bump helps some school districts

Partisan aid bump helps some school districts

The state budget includes more than $30 million for school districts lucky enough to be represented

The state budget includes more than $30 million for school districts lucky enough to be represented by a majority member in the Assembly or state Senate.

The state budget includes money referred to as “bullet aid,” which isn’t allocated by any formula, but is controlled by the majorities of each chamber. This year’s budget includes $18 million for the Assembly to dole out and about $15 million for the Senate.

A full breakdown of the bullet aid from the Assembly is available on the Capital Region Scene blog.

Funding from the Assembly has been identified and the Senate money will be allocated by a future resolution. Proponents of this funding say it is used to address inequities in funding formulas.

At a glance

A look at bullet aid in the Capital Region:

• $50,000 for the South Colonie Central School District

• $50,000 for the North Colonie Central School District

• $75,000 for the Amsterdam City School District

• $50,000 for the Canajoharie Central School District

• $25,000 for the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District

• $100,000 for the Schalmont Central School District

• $50,000 for the Rotterdam-Mohonasen Central School District.

• $100,000 for the Albany City School District

• $50,000 for the Cohoes City School District

“You don’t use a flawed tool to fix an initially flawed tool,” responded Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville. He described this funding as the new “pork” for majority members in the state Legislature.

His district and none of the other Capital Region districts represented by minority members received bullet aid. This means no schools in Schoharie, Fulton or Saratoga counties will receive money from the Assembly’s portion, although they will likely benefit from the Senate’s portion, as they’re represented by majority members in the Senate. The Senate Majority Coalition includes Republicans and a handful of independent Democrats.

Funding for Capital Region schools includes $50,000 for the South Colonie Central School District, $50,000 for the North Colonie Central School District, $75,000 for the Amsterdam City School District, $50,000 for the Canajoharie Central School District, $25,000 for the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District, $100,000 for the Schalmont Central School District and $50,000 for the Rotterdam-Mohonasen Central School District.

These school districts are represented by Assembly members Phil Steck, D-Colonie, and Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam. Democrats control the state Assembly.

Amsterdam school Superintendent Tom Perillo said Santabarbara alerted him about the money on Wednesday.

“We’re very appreciative,” he said of the extra funds, which comes in addition to $38.6 million in state education aid that was announced Tuesday.

Perillo said the district will identify programs to spend the additional money on. He named a robotics program as something that might receive a portion of the bullet aid.

“We can certainly put that money to good use,” he said.

The Assembly money is referred to as “Supplemental Valuation Impact Grants” in the budget, with a description saying it is designed to add funding to districts that have experienced significant financial hardships because of “extraordinary” changes in their taxable property valuation.

Tedisco said the best way to help needy school districts is not on a partisan basis. He said high-need and low-wealth districts should receive this money on a nonpartisan basis.

The partisan nature of bullet aid, Tedisco argues, means that school districts are held hostage by shifts in the political winds. This was especially evident in the state Senate, where the majority has switched three times since the 2008 elections.

“Our state’s future doesn’t depend on well-educated kids from one party’s area,” he added.

This funding comes in addition to $15 million in education aid that the Senate majority has yet to allocate. Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, highlighted this issue during a budget debate earlier this week. She expressed a hope that the majority will disperse the money by need and not on a partisan basis.

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