Assemblyman Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood) announced that he helped pass the 2017-18 state budget, which invests heavily in education, providing substantial funding for New York students from pre-kindergarten to graduation and supportive services for hardworking families.
“From strengthening our kids’ education to improving our justice system this budget continues New York’s progressive track forward,” Assemblyman Ramos said. “It provides greater opportunities for those who have been marginalized for so long.”
Investing in our schools
The state budget allocates $25.8 billion in total education funding, an increase of $1 billion. This includes a $700 million increase in Foundation Aid to ensure schools have the resources they need, and $150 million in Community School Aid funding to help convert struggling schools into community schools that provide services to support at-risk students and their families and strengthen neighborhoods.
In addition, the budget provides $817 million in total funding for prekindergarten programs, $35 million for after-school programs, restores aid to public libraries by $4 million, for a total of $95.6 million and provides an increase of $10 million in capital funding for a total of $24 million.
Further, the state budget includes $18 million in funding for former President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which was established in 2014 to help address the persistent opportunity gaps young men of color face. The initiative’s goal is to provide the support and skills they need to rise above systemic barriers so they can live up to their capabilities.
“Increased funding for educational programs and initiatives such as My Brother’s Keeper is essential to helping our youth, particularly those of color, rise above the systemic hurdles they face,” said Ramos.
Increasing access to higher education
The state budget includes a groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind initiative to make SUNY schools tuition-free for families who earn less than $125,000 annually. To help students and their families meet the rising, non-tuition costs of college, the budget includes $8 million to help students pay for textbooks.
“We all know that higher education is linked to greater opportunities, yet for too many families in my district the cost of a college education is prohibitively high,” said Ramos. “This program provides greater opportunity and mobility for hard-working families who might otherwise not have the chance to attend college.”
The 2017-18 state budget also restores $23.8 million for opportunity programs:
- Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP): $35.5 million, a restoration of $5.9 million;
- Educational Opportunity Program (EOP): $32.2 million, a restoration of $5.3 million;
- Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge program (SEEK): $28.1 million, a restoration of $4.6 million; and
- Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP): $15.8 million, a restoration of $2.6 million;
Investing in clean water
In the wake of recent water crises the state budget included $2.5 billion in funding for water infrastructure. The funding includes $1 billion to help municipalities upgrade their drinking and wastewater infrastructure, including repairing and replacing old pipes and water mains, as well as $300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund, to help low-income communities impacted by pollution and $110 million for land acquisition projects to keep water from becoming polluted in the first place.
“It is no secret our drinking and wastewater infrastructure are deteriorating. Hicksville, Hempstead, Bethpage, Plainview, East Farmingdale, Garden City, and Jericho have all tested positive for unsafe contaminates,” Ramos said. “We cannot be cost-conscious when it comes to the quality of our drinking water, the effects of doing so can be devastating.”
Expanding access to the legal system
The state budget provides $10 million to expand immigrant legal defense services, as well as restores $8.4 million to support legal services, including $1.06 million for the New York State Defenders Association, $600,000 for immigrant legal services and $500,000 for alternatives to incarceration (ATI) programming.
“A fair and impartial legal system is the bedrock of our society. Race, socio-economic or immigration status should not change that right,” Assemblyman Ramos said.
The budget also includes legislation to gradually increase the state’s investment in public defense services over the next six years. The plan will ensure defendants have counsel at arraignment, establish new caseload standards so that attorneys can devote sufficient time and attention to each case and ensure that attorneys are qualified and experienced.
Keeping Long Islanders safe
The 2017-18 state budget increases funding to fight the heroin epidemic by $43 million, for a total of $213 million, and $10 million to increase the number of beds in in-patient treatment facilities. This funding aims to support treatment and prevention programs.
The budget also restores $600,000 for the Edward Byrne Memorial/Justice Assistance Grants that support state and local government projects that prevent and control crime and improve the criminal justice system.
“Whether it’s preventive services for heroin and opioid abuse, additional funding for our police departments or better legal services for people of color who have specifically been targeted by law enforcement, this funding puts the safety of our communities first,” Ramos added.