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Buffalo schools hoping for budget help with charter school bill

More budget help could be on the way for Buffalo Public Schools.

The state Senate last week joined the Assembly by passing a bill that changes the way school districts are reimbursed for payments to charter schools. In the case of Buffalo, that adjustment would free up more than $9 million for the district next year.

State Sen. Chris Jacobs and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who sponsored the bill in their respective houses, urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign off, although the fate of the legislation is unclear.

The state a couple years ago boosted the amount of aid to charter schools, but required the home districts to pay that “supplemental basic tuition” – $1,000 per charter school pupil – to the charters up front. The district would get reimbursed by the state the following year.

The problem is that it cuts into the operating aid that school districts were counting on using.

Buffalo, which has complained about the payment method, is projected to pay out $9.25 million next year, while taking in $8.7 million in state reimbursement for the payments it made charters this budget year.

“This legislation now requires that the state reimburse the school district for payments to Buffalo charter schools in the same year that the payments are made,” Jacobs said.

If the legislation to speed up the reimbursement is signed by the governor, the Buffalo school district would receive two years worth of revenue during the 2018-19 school year, according to district officials.

Charter schools get the resources they need and the district students do, as well, said Peoples-Stokes.

“This is the best possible outcome we could have hoped for,” Peoples-Stokes said. “I urge Gov. Cuomo to sign this bill into law.”

The legislation would also apply to other school districts outside New York City. The bill has been forwarded to the governor after being passed by the Senate last Thursday and the Assembly in March.

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