Latest state budget discussions restore BOCES Aid
The New York State budget isn't finalized yet, but there are early signs that BOCES advocacy efforts to maintain BOCES Aid may be paying off.
The Governor included in his Executive Budget (released Feb. 2) cuts of $1.5 billion to education, including making some BOCES services exempt from aid, meaning districts would no longer receive state funding for using those BOCES services. (Read previous Insider story for details.) But this week, the Assembly and Senate released their budget proposals, which both restore at least $200 million in funding to schools, and maintain current BOCES Aid, including for all BOCES services. (Download a PDF summary of the Assembly and Senate budget proposals, created by the New York State Council of School Superintendents.)
"There is still plenty of negotiation taking place among lawmakers, but that both houses of the Legislature have rejected the Governor's proposal to cut BOCES Aid is a very good sign," said District Superintendent Charles Dedrick. "Our advocacy efforts must continue, but we definitely need to thank everyone — including many staff — who have worked to help lawmakers understand how critical BOCES Aid is to schools."
Multiple advocacy efforts
Capital Region BOCES has pursued several advocacy efforts this school year:
Last fall, Capital Region BOCES and the other 36 BOCES across the state hired an advocate to educate lawmakers about expense-driven aids, including BOCES Aid. That advocate, Terri Crowley of Hinman Straub Advisors, has been regularly meeting and speaking with lawmakers ever since. (Read previous Insider story about Crowley.)
Three teams of BOCES staff and board members — 27 individuals total — spent Feb. 15 meeting with legislators at the Capitol as part of the annual BOCES Lobby Day. They shared a BOCES Lobby Day paper (PDF), which encouraged five actions by legislators, including maintaining BOCES Aid, expanding the role of BOCES, extending BOCES lease terms, making Excess Cost Aid fair to districts and supporting full day BOCES programs.
Dedrick has sent letters to 15 area legislators and legislative leaders advocating for BOCES, including this March 1 letter (PDF).
BOCES has provided letters for legislators to send to Senate and Assembly leaders on BOCES' behalf.
BOCES is also working with some of its business partners, to send letters to legislators on BOCES' behalf.
Capital Region BOCES joined with Questar III and 47 school district superintendents to develop an annual legislative position paper, released March 9 to the media and legislators. That paper urges state leaders to consider six recommendations that would help school districts minimize the devastating loss of jobs and programs now being debated in communities throughout the region. (Read previous Insider story.)
How can you help?
Many BOCES staff have already helped in direct advocacy efforts, which has been a big help, said Dedrick. The best way for others to help? "Be up on the issues, and be able to speak to how BOCES Aid and BOCES works," said Dedrick. Staff are encouraged to keep track of the latest state budget discussions through local media, and to read the various advocacy documents BOCES has been distributing (above). Future editions of BOCES Insider will also include updates.
"If you can answer questions from district staff, parents, community, etc., that is a big help — and of course, just ask if you receive a question you can't answer," said Dedrick. Such questions should be directed to your supervisor, or Dedrick at firstname.lastname@example.org. "Our efforts will continue until the state budget is finalized — and beyond, to prepare for future years," he said.