Gov. Kathy Hochul delivering the 2023 State of the State address in the Assembly chamber Jan. 10. Photo: Courtesy of Gov. Kathy Hochul's office.

Fully funding foundation aid for school districts around New York State will be a budget priority this year, Gov. Kathy Hochul said in her State of the State address today.

Foundation aid helps fund school districts based on need, community wealth and regional cost differences. The Riverhead Central School District received $56.3 million in state and foundation aid for this school year — a 16.3% increase from the previous school year’s aid. State aid makes up roughly a third of the district’s overall budget.

A boost in foundation aid for Riverhead in 2021 allowed the Board of Education to propose an operating budget that restored many of its administrative positions and programs cut in 2020 — including athletics, extracurricular activities and music programs — without needing to raise the tax levy.

“Governor Hochul’s historic commitment to invest in our public schools is a huge step forward and is exactly what our state needs,” New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said in a statement today. “Fully funded Foundation Aid will dramatically improve the lives of students, educators and families across New York.”

Statewide, foundation aid will increase $2.7 billion, to a total amount of over $24 billion, Hochul said. $250 million of the increase will go specifically towards establishing tutoring programs that focus on assisting students with reading and math in grades 3-8, Hochul said.

Foundation aid, which is determined based on a formula established by the state legislature factoring in wealth, cost of living and the regional economics of the district benefiting from the funds, was enacted in 2007 in response to a court ruling that found that the state’s funding of public schools was inadequate and unconstitutional. Hochul announced in Oct. 2021 that the state had settled litigation brought against it in 2014 by an advocacy group called New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights, which sought to require New York State to fully fund foundation aid. The settlement of the case required that the state fully fund foundation aid by the FY 2024 budget.

The aid comes after students around New York suffered a noticeable drop in performance in core subjects following the coronavirus pandemic, which forced students into online learning for several months and has disrupted education overall in the last few years. The percentage of fourth-grade students in New York performing at or above basic proficiency levels dropped 10% in math and 8% in reading, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP),

Hochul said she would also be “doubling down” on investments in universal prekindergarten programs by adding another $125 million to expand the program. The expansion will allow approximately 17,500 additional 4-year-old children to attend full-day prekindergarten programs, according to the governor.

Hochul also will propose to invest an additional $20 million to support establishing new early college high school and P-TECH (pathways in technology) programs that will allow more students to earn college credits in high school.

“All of New York’s students deserve access to a high-quality education, from prekindergarten through their college graduation,” Hochul said. “By making historic investments in public schools, expanding universal prekindergarten and tutoring programs, and expanding the opportunity to earn college credits in high school, we are carving out a path for students to build a brighter future for themselves and for New York.”

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: