Cuomo says feds won't help on education aid, but Schumer says NY will get $2 billion

The aid doubles what New York will receive under the Title 1 funding formula.

David McKay Wilson
Rockland/Westchester Journal News

Tax Watch columnist David McKay Wilson looks into Gov. Andrew Cuomo's claims about federal education aid. 

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer says the $2 trillion aid package passed last week will bring a $2 billion infusion of education aid here, despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s insistence that the federal government turned its back on New York schools during the coronavirus crisis.

The education aid arrives as New York lawmakers work to hammer out a state budget by Wednesday, with cuts to school aid very much on the table.  

United States Senator Chuck Schumer talks about the SALT deduction issue and Trump tax cut bill, while standing in front of a home on Carolyn Avenue in White Plains Aug. 13, 2019.

The federal bill included $30 billion in emergency education funding, according to a fact sheet on the bill from the Senate Minority Leader's press shop. 

New York gets $2.1 billion in education aid, with almost $1 billion for public and private higher education institutions, and $1.2 billion for K-12 education.

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That includes $164 million under Cuomo’s control to provide basic education aid or emergency support to school districts and institutions of higher education that the state Department of Education determines were significantly impacted by the virus.

Most of the money comes through the federal Title 1 funding formula, which provides aid for schools that serve kids who grow up in low-income families.

This aid doubles what New York will receive in that program this year.

It means a lot to these districts.

The federal bill will bring an estimated $63 million to 83 districts in the five-county region that comprises Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess and Orange counties, based on a Tax Watch analysis.

An estimated 38% of the federal education funds provided in the Hudson Valley will go to just two districts: East Ramapo in Rockland County and Kiryas Joel in Orange County. Both districts have large populations of low-income Orthodox Jewish students who attend private schools.

New York City schools would receive an estimated 58% of the funding — about $600 million - while the Rochester city schools would receive an estimated $22 million.

The $2 billion in education aid is part of a $112 billion federal aid package that brought $25 billion to New York hospitals, $33 billion to small businesses, $4 billion for the MTA, and a $600-a-week premium on unemployment checks.

Schumer heralded the federal deal on Sunday, noting the federal education aid.  

“There is much more to be done in order to vanquish and recover from this horrible virus plaguing our great state and nation, but each day we make new progress, and we continue the collective fight,” he said. “We won’t stop, and I won’t stop until we are back to bustling.”

'Federal government gave us zero'

The federal money was approved for New York as Cuomo, who is engaged in a budget battle with state legislators, maintains that the federal government has given nothing to New York for education.

“Federal government gave us zero. Nada. Yente. Zilch. We're going to have to cut. We're going to have to cut education aid because that's the Number One expense," Cuomo said on Friday.

When asked about the billion-dollar federal education aid package on Monday, Cuomo budget spokesman Freeman Klopott did not budge from the Cuomo administration’s insistence that Washington had turned its back on New York school children and their teachers.

“This isn’t a game, despite the way Washington likes to play,” Klopott said in an email statement. “The federal government provided states with zero funding in their $2 trillion appropriation to help offset the deep revenue loss they face, which for New York state is expected to amount to more than 10% of our state-funded operating budget. As a result, cuts in state funding must be made across the board because unlike the federal government the state must balance its budget.”

While Cuomo has yet to welcome the massive federal help, the federal education dollars are on the radar screen of the Yonkers school district and state Sen. Shelley Mayer, D-Yonkers, who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

State Sen. Shelley Mayer is education chair of the NY state Senate.

They like what they see. 

Mayer said the federal funds will help as legislators try to spare the public education sector from the pain coursing through the region’s private sector.

“We are in the midst of doing everything we can to get as much money from every source, so schools don’t feel the impact of how dire this can be,” she said. “We are going to keep pushing for as much money as possible and plausible under these circumstances." 

The federal funding comes as the state Legislature prepares to pass the state’s 2020-21 budget for the fiscal year that begins on Wednesday. Cuomo said last week he expects that state education aid, which he proposed to rise by $826 million, will most like be cut in the final package.

How it breaks out in Hudson Valley

Yonkers, with about 25,000 students, would receive an estimated $8 million. The funds for Yonkers comes as the district wrestles with a $14 million deficit in its current budget proposal.

The biggest grant locally — about $17 million — will go to East Ramapo in Rockland County, which serves about 37,000 students — 10,000 who attend the public schools and about 27,000 who are transported at public expense to private schools, which are mostly yeshivas.

The third largest grant — about $7 million — will go the Kiryas Joel district in Orange County, located in the Satmar Hasidic village of about 24,000. The Kiryas Joel school district has 161 students public schoolstudents, according the state Education Department. U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, whose district includes Kiryas Joel, declined to comment on the federal funding.

The class and race divisions that define many school districts in the region are revealed in how Title 1 funds are allocated throughout the region’s 84 school districts. In 2019-20, there were 45 districts that received less than $200,000 in Title 1 funds in 2019-20 and 61 received less than $500,000.

The only district not receiving Title 1 funding is Scarsdale, tapped at American's second richest town this year by the Bloomberg 2020 index. 

Just 11 of the 84 districts are expected to receive more than $1 million in funding, according to the Tax Watch analysis. In addition to Yonkers, East Ramapo and Kiryas Joel, they are Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Port Chester, White Plains, North Rockland, Poughkeepsie, Middletown and Newburgh.

In the Lower Hudson Valley, estimated grants range from $1 million in Port Chester to $2.4 million in Mount Vernon. In the mid-Hudson, estimated grants range from $2 million in Poughkeepsie to $3.3 million in Newburgh.

Follow Tax Watch columnist David McKay Wilson on Facebook and Twitter @davidmckay415.