Education Fights at the Center of Budget Talks in Albany

The New York State Capitol in Albany.

The state senate and assembly are set to begin conference committee meetings on Monday, now that both houses have finished with their resolutions laying out their positions. 

Sticking points include funding for charter schools. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Republicans are seeking to "protect" charters, meaning possibly increasing the funding so they could pay rent, if required, or build more of their own buildings. Speaking at a business lunch last week, the governor said charter school funding would be one of his top priorities in the budget.

“It’s essential that the charter movement be protected, and that the charter movement be supported,” Cuomo said, to applause.

Afterward the governor said no mayor should be allowed the power to both deny the schools free rent and block additional funding if they were forced to move. He says that would amount to a “de facto stop” of the charter movement.

The assembly is not on board, however. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the money in the senate plan could be better spent on  children at struggling district schools where there’s already a classroom shortage.

“They don’t have Wall Street millionaires who can put ads on or contribute to campaigns, and therefore nobody represents them,” Silver said. “They’re doomed to sitting in trailers for the rest of their school career.”

But Silver said he would support the senate proposal to use more than a half billion dollars in state funds to fully fund pre-kindergarten, as long as there are no pre-conditions or strings attached.

The three sides have until the end of the month to come up with a final spending plan.