Ahead of today’s budget presentation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo took a hardline approach in response to calls for additional funding for education.
Education spending has become a point of contention between the governor and education advocates, especially given a projected surplus that could be used in the upcoming budget. Cuomo says he wants to use that on a package of tax cuts, while advocates want to see additional education dollars.
Last year Cuomo proposed an education aid increase of 4.4 percent. But with plans to stick to a spending cap again this year and use the projected surplus for tax cuts, Cuomo questioned how much more could be provided.
“For many years, New York State spent 7, 8, 9, 10 percent more every year. Incredibly exorbitant, excessive amounts, and it was never enough,” he said on WCNY’s “The Capitol Pressroom” on Friday. “We spent more per student than any state in the nation.”
Cuomo pointed to student results in relation to spending. He said the state falls in the middle of the country in terms of results but has consistently spent more than other states.
“It’s not about more money gets us more results because if that was the case, our students would be doing better than any students in the country because we’re spending more than anyone else,” Cuomo said. “It’s not about the money for the bureaucracy. It’s about results from the student. It’s about evaluations. What teachers are working well? What teachers need assistance to work better? It’s about the results. It’s about the performance.”
New York State United Teachers, or NYSUT, the statewide teachers and school employees union, has been outspoken that the state needs more funding. NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn said that funding levels are still roughly $300 million less than five years ago and that districts are still digging out from recession-time budget cuts and effects of the 2 percent property tax cap, which the union has criticized as undemocratic.
“Significant investment of state aid is needed to begin restoring the programs and people that students need in classrooms in order to graduate and go on to live successful lives,” Korn said.
After avoiding any mention of Common Core standards in his State of the State address earlier this month, Cuomo touched on the issue on Friday. Asked about if he would be open to a delay in the implementation of the new standards or the Annual Professional Performance Review for teachers, Cuomo emphasized teacher evaluations, calling them important for both students and educators.
“The Common Core has raised real concerns all across the state. And I’ve heard them all across the state,” he said. “This is upstate, downstate, Democrats, Republicans, short people, tall people, gay people, straight people, it has really raised concerns. … And those are concerns that we are looking at and I think we will be discussing this legislative session.”
Education advocates have directed much of the criticism of Common Core at state Education Commissioner John King. Cuomo was also asked if King still has his 100 percent support.
“I don’t know that anyone has my 100 percent support, some family members included,” the governor replied.
“I think John King has done a good job by and large,” he added. “I think there are real questions that we have to deal with this session.”
When pressed for more, Cuomo said he supports King and reiterated that King has done a good job.