Our allies at the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) and The Schuyler Center for Advocacy and Analysis (SCAA) are celebrating legislative wins in New York State for both the child care and public education systems. The New York legislature passed a budget that raises $4.3 billion in new, progressive, annual revenue, which enabled the state to commit to fully fund its school aid formula with a historic increase of 4 billion phased in over the next two years, fulfilling a decade-long advocacy effort by AQE to address the underfunding of New York public schools. The new funding will make a big difference when it comes to early learning in underserved communities by providing additional resources to districts with large populations of students of color. Additionally, New York will allocate federal relief dollars to support significant policy changes in child care – changes that support families and providers and expand pre-k.
A Decade Long Win
For over ten years, the Alliance for Quality Education, with leadership from parent advocates, educators and now, lawmakers, fought to create a more equitable public education financing system. This session, legislators committed to fully fund the Foundation Aid using new state revenue, generated by tax increases for individuals earning more than $1 million. Previously, the Aid was underfunded and did not adequately support all of New York’s school districts. The state will now distribute funding to K-12 public school districts through a formula that is more reflective of the needs of children and families in communities. Importantly, the formula provides additional resources for school districts with over 40% Black and Latino students.
“The school aid in this year’s state budget has the potential to change the experiences and opportunities our children have in their public schools for years to come. This has been a long fight, far too long for the tens of thousands of students who were born, educated and grew into adults while waiting for the funding and resources that should never have been denied them. The goal of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit and funding the Foundation Aid formula was to give our schools a shot in the arm: an infusion of resources to raise the state’s funding up to the minimum level required for every child to get a ‘sound, basic education.’ Now, we begin the work of accountability and transparency as districts make plans to spend these new resources. ”
Jasmine Gripper, Executive Director
Alliance for Quality Education
Child Care and Pre-K Wins
Additionally, SCAA and AQE collaborated with state partners to advocate using federal relief funds as an opportunity to enact bold changes in the state’s child care and early learning systems. The allies worked through campaigns and coalitions to strategize how to add pressure to elected officials for their advocacy agenda. This strategic advocacy led to an expansion of the Universal Pre-k program. Due to the allocation of $90 million, 210 school districts will now be able to offer full-day pre-k programs, and 25 school districts with half-day programs will now be able to implement full day programs, at $10,000 per pupil. Funding will be issued from federal relief aid for the first two years of implementation and sustained through state revenue starting in year three.
On the child care front, SCAA, AQE and our state partners secured investments that will begin to address one of the defining child care subsidy challenges in New York: deep inequities in access across counties and communities. These inequities have long existed because New York’s subsidy system is administered by counties, and counties have consistently been awarded far less than they need, forcing them to impose eligibility restrictions to make scarce resources stretch. With the passage of this year’s budget, New York will increase eligibility for child care subsidies to families with incomes up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level across the state, cap co-payments statewide at 10% of a family’s income for those earning over the federal poverty level, and require counties to pay subsidies for at least 24 absences per year. It is estimated the budget adds 10,000 new childcare slots for families while. In addition, the budget included $25 million for scholarships for essential workers, and $100 million to increase child care capacity in child care deserts.
Two additional bills further improve the child care infrastructure:
- 5840/S.5162– Allows providers to receive subsidy payments through direct deposit rather than waiting for a check by mail.
- 7721/S. 7128– Extends the Child Care Eligibility Task Force so it can oversee and monitor Task Force recommendations to improve child care access and implementation of new budget items.
AQE and Schuyler will build on these legislative wins next year and monitor the bills to ensure implementation is successful.