Foundation aid is money provided from the New York State budget to support public school districts. In most years foundation aid represents around 70% of the aid provided to schools by the State. It is the largest category of unrestricted aid for schools.
New York State has used several different methods of determining state aid distribution in their history. The State currently uses a complicated formula to determine how much aid is to be distributed to each school district in the form of Foundation Aid. The category of Foundation Aid was defined in the 2007-08 state budget.
Foundation Aid has four main components:
- A State-specified expenditures per pupil, called the adjusted foundation amount, to which the State and school districts will contribute.
- A State-specified expected minimum local contribution per pupil (based on a computed tax rate or local share formula) representing each district’s contribution to the adjusted foundation amount per pupil
- The number of total aidable foundation pupil units (TAFPU) in the district.
- A calculation of Foundation Aid Payable, which adjusts Total Foundation Aid based on phase-in factors and minimum and maximum aid increases
From there the actual calculations take several pages in the State Aid Handbook. This process was created as the result of the lawsuit known as the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. When it was implemented in 2007, it was designed with a multi-year phase in process to ease the impact on the state budget. However, in 2009 that phase in was stopped and followed by several years of frozen aid levels. In the most recent budget a minimal amount was added to the foundation aid, but for the majority of school districts in the state, total aid still remains below amounts received in 2008.
The failure of New York State to properly fund Foundation Aid using their own formulas has cost schools in the state untold billions of dollars. Every school has had to make the same difficult decisions of cutting programs, or asking the local taxpayers to share in more of the cost of providing a sound basic education as required by the NYS Constitution.
In conclusion, it is imperative the New York State stop changing the formulas, and more importantly fully fund the current formulas. In addition, the additional categories of aid need to properly reflect expenditures and be paid in a timely manner.