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Speech promises end of explosive 'gap elimination'

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his State

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his State of the State address and executive budget proposal at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll) Photo Credit: AP

In his State of the State address, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo promised to increase annual state K-12 education spending over the next two years by $2.1 billion, to $25 billion a year. And he promised to end the "Gap Elimination Adjustment" once and for all. "Gap elimination" is a technical term for an explosive political issue.

During the 2010-11 school year, the adjustment was a $2.7 billion cut to state education spending to balance the budget as the state emerged from a recession.

Since then, all but $434 million has been returned to schools, with the priority of returning it to high-needs districts. Much of the shortfall that remains is owed to wealthy or semi-wealthy districts, many of them on Long Island.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) has pledged to get that money back for his members, and the promise that it would be returned was prominent in both Cuomo's and Flanagan's speeches today. But Democrats, who run the Assembly, continue to argue that most increased education funding should go to the highest-need schools, which would happen if it were put in the "foundation" funding pot by which most state aid is allocated, and which also was cut drastically during the economic downturn.

By proposing such a large increase, Cuomo seems to be trying to fund both priorities, but this is public education: A funding plan that will please all stakeholders is not a possibility; it's a zero-sum game.


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