Governor Kathy Hochul's proposed budget provides more than $31 billion for the 2023 school year, the highest level of state aid ever. This includes a $1.6 billion investment in Foundation Aid. The Foundation Aid formula calculates how much an individual school district gets from the state.
"It takes the poverty, population, socioeconomic standing, etc. of a school district and a city and it weights different percentages to come together with the overall [money] that's allocated, and it divides it up according to that formula," Mark Laurrie, superintendent of Niagara Falls City Schools, said.
"What they've done is committed to funding it. That's very different from the previous governor for sure," Mike Cornell, the president of the Erie Niagara School Superintendent's Association and superintendent of Hamburg Central School District, said.
Both Laurrie and Cornell said this is a stark change from the previous administration.
"One of the things I think stands out to us, to school leaders in Western New York, is Governor Hochul's commitment to investing in public schools without some of the games that have been played in years past," Cornell said.
"This transition to fully fund foundation aid over the next two years certainly makes school funding one of the factors we really don't have to push or have confrontation over," Laurrie said.
The money coming into the districts will be directly invested in students after a long two years of challenges.
"We are on a major recovery from the loss of learning and the return to in person instruction as a result of COVID. We want to expand on programs that have proven this year to be successful," Laurrie said.
"For every dollar spent on public education, we return between three and five dollars of benefit," Cornell said.
This has school leaders feeling hopeful about what's ahead.
"This is the best I think our school district, and most school districts, could have hoped for," Laurrie said.