Update the Foundation Aid Formula
As you investigate how to revise the Foundation Aid formula, we strongly encourage the State to utilize updated census and poverty data and increase weightings for Special Education and English Language Learners (ELL) for equitable funding. Logically, this is the year to update the formula to ensure that State funds will be allocated to students who need it most when the federal stimulus funds expire next year.
Increase School Health Services Aid
School Health Services aid has not kept pace with student health and medical needs for years. This gap has widened as a result of the ongoing pandemic. SCSD funding of $1.08 million covers the cost of 12 nurses, yet we employ more than 50 nurses and 30 health aides at $5.64 million to provide essential services to all schools in the City of Syracuse including Charters and private schools. Nurses are critical to the daily operation of our schools and should be properly funded as an expense-reimbursement based aid.
Increase Special Services Aid (CTE)
Provide Special Services Aid for 9th grade students enrolled in Career & Technical Education courses. The current formula only funds students in grades 10, 11 and 12. Additionally, increase the cap on the per pupil rate by 10% for inflation. Data is currently being collected and reported on 9th grade CTE students and this investment will provide opportunities for students to be college and career ready.
Increase Instructional Materials Aid for Inflation
These funds provide critical access to educational materials and the rates have not increased since the 1990s. We ask that instructional material aids including library materials, textbooks, software and hardware aid are increased for inflation and that resident enrollment is used instead of attending enrollment to support all students in the district.
JSCB Phase III – Increase Borrowing Authority to $400 million
Since initial approval of JSCB Phase III to transform 10 schools across all four quadrants of the City, the construction industry has experienced unprecedented inflation with a 30% increase in the SED Facilities Planning Department’s Construction Cost Index. Additionally, the recently completed Building Condition Survey identified additional structural work needed at many of these schools. In order to provide the children of Syracuse with a modern learning environment in these 10 schools as planned, we are requesting that the project appropriation be increased from $300 million to $400 million.
Limit Charter School Approvals and Freeze Charter Tuition Rates
Limit Charter School saturation to 10% in urban centers and discontinue SUNY Charter authorizations. This allows for school choice while limiting the financial burden on public school districts. In Syracuse, Charter School enrollment has increased to 10% in recent years costing nearly $30 million. Students enrolling in Charter Schools are coming from every school and grade level in the District, making it nearly impossible to offset additional tuition expense with reductions in existing District programs and classrooms.
Advance Payment of Supplemental Charter School Tuition Aid to the Current Year
Supplemental Charter School Tuition Aid is paid on a one-year lag. If the State would pay this aid in the current year, it would provide a one year pick up in 2022-23 then will help with cash flow thereafter. The District is mandated to pay Charter Tuition prior to receiving Foundation Aid (or risk having it intercepted) and then must wait a year before receiving Supplemental Charter School Tuition Aid.
Adopt Federal Purchasing Thresholds
Doing so will reduce the administrative work involved in the purchasing process and will expedite ordering timelines, which is critical in these times of supply chain disruption. Federal Uniform Grant Guidance CFR 200.320 requires competitive bidding for purchases exceeding $250,000. Under current General Municipal Law 103, Districts must competitively bid Goods over $20,000 and Public Works over $35,000. Quotes would still be obtained up to the $250,000 limit to encourages competition but with far less administrative processing. SCSD is larger than many cities and municipalities so has much larger dollar value purchases. SCSD would benefit tremendously if GML 103 was amended to reference federal bid limits or higher SUNY purchasing thresholds were applied to the Big 5.
Remove the Community Schools and C4E Set-Aside Restrictions on Foundation Aid
The Community Schools and Contracts for Excellence (C4E) set-asides restrict how SCSD uses $27.3 million of the general-purpose Foundation Aid to a narrow range of specific services and programs, and places significant additional reporting requirements on the District. Funding for these services and programs should be allocated through a separate state aid allocation and should not restrict a portion of general-purpose Foundation Aid funds at a time when flexibility in responding to post-pandemic challenges is critical and the end of pandemic federal stimulus funding is looming.
Fund Another Round of Smart Schools Bond Act (SSBA)
The pandemic emphasized just how crucial technology has become to education. SCSD doubled the number of devices deployed district-wide and added staff and enhanced infrastructure to support the additional bandwidth, safe internet access, number of devices, training for staff and students, hardware and software to ensure that virtual learning could be supported. By funding another round of SSBA, the State would provide funding to replenish devices and sustain infrastructure for the future of education.