Component school districts in the WSWHE BOCES, including Lake George, have established a set of regional advocacy priorities for the legislative session.
2024 Legislative and Budget Priorities
Increase State Support for Career and Technical Education
Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs provide students with essential skills that prepare them for college and careers. However, the existing BOCES aid formula for CTE programs operated by BOCES only allows districts to receive aid on the first $30,000 of a BOCES instructor’s salary. The average salary of a CTE teacher is now at least $65,000 and the aidable portion should be increased to ensure that districts can adequately support these programs. WSWHE requests that the BOCES aid reimbursement for BOCES CTE teacher’s salary be increased to $60,000.
School districts are facing extreme workforce challenges. Teachers, bus drivers, and other staff shortages are making it increasingly difficult to fully and properly staff buildings. Compounding the issues caused by the lack of candidates in the pipeline, current professionals are increasingly choosing to leave their roles earlier in their careers. To address the growing problems of recruitment and retention, the state should consider policy changes and programs that would attract people to needed roles and incentivize employees to stay. Increased flexibility for teacher certifications adopted in the last year has helped districts to more effectively utilize those teachers that they are able to hire but continued adjustments and increased reciprocity with other states are needed. The restrictive benefit structure and older retirement age for Tier 6 of the retirement system have diminished the effectiveness of a once attractive recruitment and retention tool that could be restored with adjustments to the benefit structure. In the short term, once again extending the ability of retirees to work in school districts without pension penalty or a 211 waiver would allow districts to continue to use willing retirees to fill gaps while the employee pipeline is strengthened.
We request that policymakers increase flexibilities in teacher certification, retiree employment and Tier 6 reform.
Ongoing Capital Projects
Current law allows school districts to make one “capital outlay” annually. Under this provision, each district may conduct one project that has a cost of $100,000 or less and is paid for in cash each year. Districts then receive their total building aid on the full project in the next year. Because these projects do not require voter approval or borrowing, they can be completed more efficiently and save both the state and the district money, because of the lack of interest. The current project threshold of $100,000 was established in 2002 and has not increased since. In the two decades that have passed, the relative buying power of $100,000 has decreased significantly. That was true before COVID-19, but in the last three years, prices for materials and labor have increased exponentially. We request that the spending limit for capital outlays be raised to $250,000 annually beginning in the 2024-25 school year.
2024-2025 School Aid
Districts around the state, including those in the WSWHE BOCES region are appreciative of the State’s efforts to fully fund the Foundation Aid formula and expense based aids. To ensure that all students are supported, we ask that the following provisions be included in the next state budget:
● A due minimum increase for all districts, regardless of Foundation Aid phase-in level.
● A “save-harmless” provision to ensure a stable funding baseline for all districts.
● Support an initial evaluation of the current cost to educate a successful student.
We request that these provisions be included in the 2024-25 State Budget.
School districts around the state recognize the importance of taking steps to reduce emissions and protect the environment for the students of the future. Current state law requires that all new school buses acquired be zero emissions by 2027 and all buses in operation must be zero emissions by 2035. The first state guidance on the transition was not released until almost a year and a half after the law was enacted – and districts are already running into barriers. The supply of buses for the districts that have the funding and infrastructure in place to begin operations are not adequate or timely. Existing systems and supports have not been updated to reflect this change. Districts need to be able to avail themselves of the full range of state resources and supports through existing aid streams and programs. We request that the State evaluate all existing programs around transportation, capital and planning and make updates to all planning and funding streams to include costs related to planning and executing this transition.
Additional Ongoing Issues
Small Group Health Insurance
Prior to the adoption of the ACA, a “small group” for health insurance was defined as an employer with 1-50 versus 1-100 full-time equivalent employees. During the adoption period of the ACA, this was reconsidered many times and ultimately states were authorized to implement the old standard. New York generally chose to adopt the new 1-100 standard; but for several years, school districts have been allowed to remain in their health insurance consortium, despite having 50-100 full-time equivalent employees. This authorization has been extended through December of 2028.
School Year Calendar
School leaders around the state, including the WSWHE BOCES region are proud of the diverse population of our state and applaud the efforts of local leaders to adjust their school calendars to reflect changing populations. However, the addition of new holidays and mandated days without instruction is creating increasing pressure on an already pressured school calendar. School districts must have 180 instructional days between September 1 and June 30 each year. While there is some moderate flexibility, allowing for some superintendent conference days to be held at the end of August, student instructional days are limited to that September – June window. Once mandated holidays, student days off, Regents exams, and contractual provisions are considered, there is actually very little flexibility in the calendar. These limitations should be considered when reviewing legislation that impacts the school calendar.
We encourage you to participate in the budget Take Action campaign. In response to the Governor’s 2024-25 executive budget proposal, which includes Foundation Aid cuts for more than 300 districts and lower than projected increases for the rest of the state, Lake George Central School District has crafted a ‘Take Action” email letter to send to your local representative. The letter includes budget priorities, but is customizable to fit your needs. Please, also feel welcome to share with your friends, family, and community members and encourage them to participate.
NYS Senator Dan Stec
5 Warren Street Suite 3
Glens Falls, NY 12801
45th Senate District
Email Dan Stec
NYS Assemblyman Matt Simpson
4 Southwestern Avenue Suite 3
Queensbury, NY 12804
114th Assembly District
Email Matt Simpson