Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is concerned with a new requirement that districts report to the state how much they plan to spend at individual schools, calling it “duplicative” of a similar federal mandate.
Elia said state Education Department officials were starting to work with officials from the Division of Budget to hash out what will be expected of districts, as the state requirement goes into effect for some districts, including Schenectady, next school year. By 2020, all school districts will be required to report school-level budget figures, under the law included in this year's state budget.
The reporting mandate would require districts to provide detailed breakdowns of how much money is spent at each school and how they determine school-by-school funding allocations. If districts do not correctly report the information, state aid can be withheld.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other proponents of the new mandate argue it will improve transparency and reveal funding disparities within school districts, but administrators and their advocates have panned the new law as an extra layer of paperwork.
Even before the mandate was included in the state budget approved last month, districts were set to start reporting school-level spending under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
Elia’s said similar reporting requirements – though not identical, as the state mandate relates to budget plans and the federal rule relates to actually spending – would overlap in unproductive ways.
State education officials have already started working out how districts will be required to report school-level spending under the Every Student Succeeds Act, beginning with the coming school year, and Elia said that form may be available in September.
But she didn’t specify a timeline for developing how districts would be expected to report school-level budget information to the state.
“I don’t know how that will align, and it may not be the same as what was just passed [in the state budget],” Elia said of the two reporting requirements.