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Thiele seeks changes for school aid: School Superintendent optimistic, but cautious

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (D-Sag Harbor) is seeking an update of the funding formula used by New York State to determine building aid — money available for some approved capital costs and debt service for school districts.

Working with Assemblyman Nader Sayegh (D-Yonkers), the pair are pushing bills that would help offset growing costs of work that must adhere to higher standards.

The first bill is the Education Funding Census Update Act, which would use more current census numbers used to calculate education funding.

The second bill is the Rebuild Our Schools Act that relates to the apportionment of money for capital outlays and debt service for school buildings.

The third bill is a School Aid Equity Act that would increase foundation aid for school districts in “high wealth ratio” counties that meet five specific variables that affect academic success. Those factors are free or reduced lunches; services to English language learners; the wealth ratio; enrollment; and special education.

“More and more demands are being placed on local school districts to meet higher standards,” Mr. Thiele said. “It is imperative that New York State reviews its antiquated funding formula.” He said the state using “an obsolete 23-year-old census to proscribe foundation aid funding for school districts” fails to achieve an effective result.

“To achieve better quality education for all, there must be adequate support from the state,” Mr. Thiele said. “I am proud to co-sponsor these bills, which, if enacted, would bolster necessary school capital projects and provide essential funding to our school districts here on the East End and across the state.”

Shelter Island Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D., said he hopes the district would benefit if the bills are enacted, but he’s “not confident” that will happen.

As for foundation aid — the main source of state funding to school districts meant to ensure all students receive a sound basic education, Mr. Doelger said the island has seen “relatively small increases” year-to-year.

However, he noted there were large state foundation aid increases on Long Island last year and it’s projected to be the case again for the 2023-24 budget.

“Our year-to-year foundation aid increase was $12,000 or 2.99%,” Mr. Doelger said. “But I am always an optimist as Assemblyman Thiele always does amazing things for our district.”