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Back to Communications Home

A message from Superintendent Kaweeda G. Adams

December 17, 2018

 

Our 2019-20 legislative priorities

As we look ahead to the new year, the City School District of Albany is well underway with our budget-development process for the 2019-20 school year. Under the leadership of our Board of Education's Government Relations Committee, we have met with our state leaders this fall to talk with them about our top legislative priorities for next school year.

 

On Nov. 13, our team met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's deputy secretary for education, Daniel Fuller. On Dec. 3, we sat down with our local legislative leaders -- State Sen. Neil Breslin, and Assembly members Pat Fahy and John McDonald.

 

Here is the information we shared with them. You can click here to download a copy of my letter to Gov. Cuomo with an overview of our top priorities, and follow the links below for more detail about each topic. We shared the same materials with our local state representatives. 

 

We will continue to advocate for these priorities, and for all of the support our students need and deserve, throughout the budget-development process this winter and spring.

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Dear Gov. Cuomo:

 

As you and your staff plan for the 2019-20 budget-development process, we are grateful for this opportunity to share with you and your staff the top fiscal priorities for the City School District of Albany. As we all work through our budget-development processes in the months ahead, our Board of Education and I hope that we may be able to partner with the state to provide much-needed financial assistance and relief that would benefit all of our 9,500 students and their families – and all students and families across our state – for the 2019-20 school year.

 

We have identified the following areas as our top priorities at this time:

 

Support for reduced elementary bus-eligibility zones.

Research has identified chronic absenteeism as one of the leading indicators of low student performance in school districts across New York and nationwide. While this indicator holds true across all school districts irrespective of socio-economic factors, research also has demonstrated that rates of chronic absenteeism are significantly higher in poorer communities. There are a variety of factors that can lead to chronic absenteeism. However, access to safe and appropriate transportation is among the leading factors. We strongly urge the state to consider transportation solutions to help high-needs urban districts like Albany address chronic absenteeism at the elementary level. Click here for data on the decline in attendance during the winter months at the district's elementary schools.

 

Support for our rapidly growing refugee and ENL student population.

Driven almost exclusively by the influx of refugees to Albany, our school district’s enrollment in English as a New Language programs has tripled in the past five years to nearly 1,300 students – approximately 14 percent of our total student population.  That figure is expected to continue to grow; we added more than 160 new ENL students during from July-October 2018.  Additionally, the state also is recognizing the important needs of this fragile student population and is mandating increased staffing levels – unfortunately, without the additional funding that high-needs districts like ours require to serve ENL students.  Financial support specifically targeted to districts like Albany with large and growing ENL student populations is a critical need.  We also urge the state to consider dedicated funding for ENL programs, similar to Special Education.

 

Prekindergarten funding.

The City School District of Albany offers about 1,000 prekindergarten seats city-wide for 3-year-old and 4-year-old learners.  However, the current funding formula for pre-K is more than a decade old and hampers districts like Albany that were early implementers of full-day pre-K programming.  We strongly support the NYS Board of Regents’ plan to consolidate pre-K programs.  We also strongly advocate raising the Universal Pre-K base allocation ($4,105) to be equitable with more recent pre-K funding streams such as Expanded Pre-K ($7,882).  These important changes would allow districts like ours to attract and retain high-quality, certified pre-K teachers, allowing students to receive an even stronger foundation as they begin their academic journey.

 

College and Career Readiness: STEM/STEAM K-12.

When compared to other nations, the math and science achievement of U.S. pupils and the rate of STEM degree attainment appear inconsistent.  In an effort to enhance STEM/STEAM instruction, the City School District of Albany looks to provide an integrated, relevant and academically aligned STEM-focused curriculum.  As aligned with student achievement and closing the achievement gap, coupled with college- and career-readiness goals, the district will engage students in STEM and STEAM through a real-world, relevant and rigorous experience aligned with math and science standards.  We urge the state to look at STEM/STEAM support to align with college- and career-readiness skills students need to be successful beyond graduation from high school.

 

Continued investments in Community Schools.

Our district is a strong advocate for the critical importance of sustained Community Schools funding in 2019-20 and beyond.  The $3.9 million in state Community Schools funding we are receiving for the current fiscal year has helped us continue to develop this model at our five Priority elementary schools and our alternative-education center.  We are more able to engage parents and guardians, as well as community partners, in meaningful ways.  Together with our community partners we are exploring expanded afterschool academic and enrichment programs, as well as medical, dental, mental health and social services.  We urge you to maintain your commitment to Community Schools. You also can read more about our Community Schools investments to date in the fall edition of "Capital Education," our district newlsetter.

 

Full Foundation Aid funding.

Our school district receives only about 75 percent of our Foundation Aid funding.  From 2007-08 through the current school year, that has meant a total of more than $356 million less in state funding, including more than $26.5 million in the current school year.  This significant annual shortfall in state aid is especially damaging in a city like Albany, where more than 60 percent of the property is tax-exempt and annual charter-school payments top $36 million. At the same time, only 45 percent of our annual funding comes via state aid (compared to funding levels in the 70 percent and 80 percent range in “Big 5” districts like Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse).

 

Thank you for the opportunity to present these priorities to you and your staff at this time.  We appreciate all that you do to support our schools, our students and their families, and our communities.  We look forward to an opportunity to talk about these priorities in greater detail throughout the budget-development process, and to answer any questions you and your staff might have.

 

Yours in education,

Kaweeda G. Adams

Superintendent of Schools

 

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