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New Schumer Analysis: Proposed Federal Budget In Special Ed Shortchanges Rochester/Finger Lakes Schools By $50.2 Million

Special Ed takes up 20% of schools' budgets; Feds not filling commitment for its share, local property taxpayers must make up difference

Schumer: With New York State education money already in doubt, feds must come through with money it promised schools in Rochester/Finger Lakes area; New bipartisan plan would restore full funding for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) With New York State education funds mired in uncertainty, US Senator Charles E. Schumer today called for the federal government to deliver on its commitment to fully fund its education budget for the Rochester/Finger Lakes area. Schumer today released a new analysis showing that under the Administration's proposed federal budget, schools in the Rochester/Finger Lakes area would be shortchanged approximately $50.2 million for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that funds special education and other services for students.

"The last thing parents should have to worry about when they send their kids off to school is whether the school will have enough funds for basic programs and supplies," Schumer said. "Right now, schools are strapped for cash and are depending on Washington to keep its commitment to fund equipment, books, teachers, and programs for special ed. Stiffing our schools is going to leave big holes in our school's budgets and with localities already worrying about tax hikes, it couldn't happen at a worse time."

Earlier this week, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity reported that New York State will need $9.5 billion more for education funding over the next four years, but it has not yet been revealed where this money will come from. Across the Rochester/Finger Lakes region, schools are struggling to balance their budgets amid rising costs and often are forced to raise property taxes. For example, Penfield residents reportedly face a 4.7 percent increase in property taxes this year despite large cuts in service over the last two years including transportation for special education students to programs outside of the district. The residents of Greece are facing a proposal to raise property taxes by 3.7 percent and the residents of Pittsford may see taxes go up by close to 4 percent. Inadequate federal funding for special education programs, which comprise roughly 20% of school budgets according to the Monroe County School Boards Association, has exacerbated the situation.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), originally passed in 1975, promises to provide 40 percent of the funding needed to provide a quality education for special education students. IDEA is the primary source of federal funding for special education programs and is used by schools to pay for teachers' salaries, books, and other major school expenses. According to a new Schumer analysis based on data from the Congressional Research Service, the National Education Association and the Department of Education, the President's FY 2005 budget request would only send $43.3 million in funding for Rochester/Finger Lakes area school districts instead of the $93.5 million promised by Congress. Schumer today released the following countybycounty breakdown of IDEA funding shortfalls in the Rochester/Finger Lakes area:

Click here for chart

To address the need for education funds in New York, Schumer today said that the Congress should fully restore funding for IDEA and detailed a bipartisan measure lead by Senators Harkin and Hagel that would restore full funding levels over the next eight years. The measure, which Schumer is cosponsoring, would double the $1 billion increase in funding that is proposed by the Administration for this year and continue to increase funding levels for eight years until the program would provide 40 percent of special education needs as promised. Schumer said that the measure is likely to be taken up when the IDEA is reauthorized this year.

"All over the Rochester/Finger Lakes area, no matter who I talk to, New Yorkers are concerned about the quality of their children's education," Schumer said. "The only way to make sure our kids are learning the skills and facts they need is to invest in them and that means money, not just words. Congress needs to step up to the plate and come through with the funding that was authorized in IDEA.

Earlier this year, Schumer released a report showing that the Administration's budget proposal also fails to provide adequate funding to schools in New York to meet its "No Child Left Behind" requirement, shortchanging schools in the Rochester/Finger Lakes area by $32 million for the Title I portion of the landmark education bill.

Schumer was joined today by Dr. Susan Gray, Penfield Superintendent; and Jody Siegle, Executive Director of the Monroe County School Boards Association.