A crowd of more than 250 people packed the middle school cafetorium Jan. 18 for a rally to demand Riverhead's fair share of state education aid. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Riverhead school district would see a 4.77% increase in foundation aid in the 2020-2021 school year under the governor’s proposed budget, according to data released by the governor’s office this week,

The district’s foundation aid would increase from $23,314,599 in 2019-2020 to $24,426,624 in 2020-2021, according to state aid runs released as Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined his executive budget proposal Tuesday afternoon in Albany.

The increase is “still nowhere near what is considered our fair share,” Riverhead Schools Superintendent Dr. Aurelia Henriquez said yesterday.

Riverhead receives less than 50% of the foundation aid it’s entitled to under the complex formulas used by the state to calculate the aid, according to district officials. The statewide average is 80%.

Foundation aid funding at 80% would increase Riverhead’s foundation aid to $48 million, school board president Greg Meyer said at a rally for increased aid Saturday.

Riverhead has teamed up with four other districts that also receive less than 50% of their allotted foundation aid to push for funding equity. Dubbed the “Harmed Suburban Five,” Riverhead Glen Cove, Westbury, Port Chester and Ossining have worked together to advocate for their “fair share” of foundation aid.

“We intend to push forward, increase our advocacy efforts, and travel to Albany on March 26, 2020, to ensure that our collective voices are heard,” Henriquez said yesterday.

“We are calling on our state legislators to represent the needs of our children and communities,” she said.

Total state education aid to Riverhead would increase from $32,524,604 to $34,777,118, an increase of $2,252,514 (6.9%). In addition to foundation aid, which is unrestricted education support, the district receives targeted aid for universal pre-K, students with disabilities, transportation operating costs and certain building expenditures. The $34.78 million total reflects these other funding lines.

The governor’s budget includes a $704 million increase in foundation aid statewide, with 85 percent of the foundation aid increase going to the highest-need districts, according to a press release from the governor’s office. The governor is also proposing a new school aid funding formula he says will “further prioritize poorer schools and ensure education equity” to “build up underserved school districts.”

Cuomo’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal increases community school set-aside funding by $50 million. Community schools are high-need schools that, in partnership with their communities, provide students with health and social services. The community school set-aside funding supports services such as before- and after-school programs, summer learning activities, medical and dental care, and other social services, according to the state budget director’s briefing book on the governor’s FY 2021 proposal.

Riverhead would receive $460,012 in community schools set-aside funding in 2020-2021, up from $305,458 in the current school year.

After Cuomo unveiled his executive budget proposal, New York’s largest teachers union called for a $2.1 billion increase in state aid in the 2020-21 state budget, which includes the first installment of a three-year phase-in of the more than $3.4 billion in foundation aid owed to more than 400 school districts around New York.

“Educational inequality is the most pressing issue of our time because the state is billions of dollars behind on foundation aid funding for roughly 400 school districts statewide,” New York State United Teachers president Andy Pallotta said in a statement Tuesday evening. He called on the state to pay “school districts what they are owed.”

NYSUT is visiting schools across the state as part of the union’s “Fund Our Future” bus tour, which aims “to draw attention to the severe impact a lack of state funding has had on schools statewide.”

The bus tour will stop in Riverhad on Jan. 31.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.