By Tom Precious
ALBANY -- Here are the highlights of the governor's education proposals contained in his budget briefing book released this afternoon:
Target School Aid Increases to High-Need School Districts.
Provide Fiscal Stabilization Funding for School Districts in the 2013-14 School Year.
Preschool Special Education
New York State offers extensive services to its students with disabilities, including services to children before they reach school age. The State’s spending on Preschool Special Education has doubled over the past ten years to a projected State cost of $1.1 billion for the upcoming school year. In order to address the unsustainable rate of program growth, as well as concerns resulting from recent provider audits which have uncovered high levels of inappropriate billing by several Preschool Special Education providers, the Executive Budget proposes several changes that will slow expense growth by improving fiscal oversight in the program. The proposals will ensure that scarce resources are focused on serving the needs of young children with disabilities, not dissipated through fraud.
Conduct a Large-Scale Audit of Preschool Special Education Providers.
The State will select a vendor through a competitive process to audit providers and collect extensive provider data to develop a comprehensive database in order to improve oversight.
The Executive Budget will build county capacity to oversee Preschool Special Education providers through the provision of $1 million in targeted grants to counties and through the development of a fiscal integrity tool to better detect fraud and abuse. In addition, to incentivize county oversight of providers, the Executive Budget will allow counties to retain 75 percent of audit recoveries.
Costs in the Preschool Special Education program are growing at a significantly faster rate in New York City than in the rest of the State. Uniquely situated as both the county and the school district, New York City would be authorized to implement a process to select providers for Preschool Special Education services, and to set provider rates within certain State parameters. This will allow New York City to better control costs and improve programmatic and fiscal oversight of providers.
Empower New York City.
Build Counties’ Capacity to Monitor Providers.
Other Budget Actions
Maintain the Contracts for Excellence Program.In recognition of both the fiscal circumstances facing the State and the continued need to encourage improvements in academic outcomes, all school districts currently in the Contracts for Excellence program would remain in the program unless all of the school buildings in the school district are reported as "In Good Standing" for purposes of the State accountability system. This approach will ensure participation of at least 15 school districts, including the Big Five city school districts (New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers). School districts that remain would be required to maintain funding for Contract for Excellence programs at the same level required for the 2012-13 school year.
In recognition of extraordinary increases in fixed costs, including pension contributions, the Executive Budget provides $203 million in one-time financial relief to school districts for the 2013-14 school year.
The 2011-12 Enacted Budget authorized two competitive multi-year grant programs totaling $500 million to encourage school districts to implement innovative approaches to achieve academic gains and management efficiency. The first round of these grants has been awarded to school districts that exhibited either dramatically improved performance or innovative management. The 2013-14 Executive Budget will continue this paradigm-changing reform with another round of grants, which will provide another $50 million in annual funding through a competitive grant process to school districts.
The Executive Budget reaffirms the State’s commitment to future funding increases for school districts by also including an appropriation that covers School Aid payable in the 2014-15 State fiscal year. This appropriation provides a 3.3 percent increase in School Aid for the 2014-15 school year based on projected growth in New York State personal income.
Provide Sustainable School Aid Growth.
Award Funding Based on Performance.