Elia on lawmakers’ plan to make districts report funding decisions to the state: It’s duplicative

New York State’s Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia discussed the state’s new funding transparency requirements for school districts on Monday — and she’s not thrilled.

The new state budget includes a provision that would require certain school districts to submit information about how they divvy up funding among their individual schools. The problem, according to Elia, is that state officials have already been working on a separate timeline to implement a nearly identical federal requirement.

“I do have some concerns,” said Elia in a short conversation with reporters during a break at Monday’s Board of Regents meeting. “I do think that it’s going to be duplicative to the work that’s being done with the [federal Every Student Succeeds Act] plan and financial transparency there.”

There are some differences between the two provisions, though they are relatively minor. The new state law will require districts to submit the information sooner, instead of waiting until 2019 for a public release, as state education officials originally planned. Additionally, the state law requires districts to submit information about school budgets prior to spending money, instead of reporting money that has already been spent.

The state’s requirement is a scaled down version of a proposal Gov. Andrew Cuomo advanced at the beginning of the legislative session. Citing the need to send more money to poor schools, Cuomo suggested that state officials should approve some local school district budgets to ensure they are fair to the neediest schools. (Many education advocates and Elia were critical of Cuomo’s original proposal.)

Cuomo defended the final version of the state’s budget transparency requirements by saying that the true education funding problem in New York state lies in how much money flows to individual schools.

“The real issue is the distribution of that money,” Cuomo said during a press conference when he announced the budget. “We have an education inequality problem in this state.”