Schools Seek Share of State Aid Increase and Access to Technology Funding

Albany – Students, educators and administrators representing 11 state-supported schools serving deaf, blind and severely physically disabled students will visit Albany on Tuesday, March 11, to urge lawmakers to remember them as they negotiate the 2014-15 state budget.

Gov. Cuomo’s proposed school aid budget is $21.9 billion, an increase of 3.8 percent – or $807 million – over this year’s enacted budget.

The 4201 Schools Association is seeking an equitable share of any school aid increases to support students attending 4201 Schools, and to be included in the governor’s Smart Schools Bond Act.

Dr. Bernadette Kappen, superintendent of the New York Institute for Special Education in the Bronx and chairwoman of the 4201 Schools Association, said that any aid increases approved in school aid should be accompanied by a commensurate increase in the appropriations that support students attending 4201 Schools.

She added, “And technology plays a vital role in educating children with low-incidence disabilities.” As proposed in the Executive Budget, the Smart Schools Bond Act does not include funding for members of the 4201 Schools Association.

“Technology is the great equalizer. Employing technology in the classroom is often the difference between student participation and student isolation,” Dr. Kappen said. “Smart Schools should be for all schools.”

Budget allocations to 4201 schools have been flat for the past four years, although operational expenses continue to rise. Since 2008, member-schools have maintained programs while reducing payroll nearly nine percent – or roughly $7.3 million. Total enrollment has remained stable, but state funding has declined by $5.4 million – or four percent – since the 2008-09 budget year.

Further, payments from the member-schools into the New York State Employees Retirement System have nearly doubled since 2007-2008, increasing from $7 million to $13.3 million in 2012-2013.

“It is our goal to provide every student who needs our services with the opportunity to succeed,” Dr. Kappen said. “However, we are not being provided with the same resources or support as the districts whose students we serve.”

Dr. Kappen presented the association’s message in the form of testimony at a budget hearing in January. View the full testimony here.