by Mike Neppl, NYLA Director of Government Relations & Advocacy
As we inch closer to the start of New York State’s 2016 Legislative Session and FY2017-18 state budget negotiations, library advocates remain keenly aware of persistent inequities in how policymakers approach State Library Aid in relation to overall Education spending. Though we are making progress, State Library Aid still lags pre-recession funding levels. This past year, state policymakers retired the last vestige of recession-era School Aid funding cuts, the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). With state Education spending now at record-high levels, it is time to fully address the recession-era cuts to State Library Aid.
The GEA grew out of the state’s deficit reduction plan (DRP), and enacted formula-based cuts to School Foundation Aid. While GEA spending reductions were somewhat mitigated by freezing the School Foundation Aid formula, and an influx in federal dollars under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), cuts to State Library Aid were disproportionately applied, and contained no policy mechanism to retire the spending reductions.
In fact, while state education spending is now at record levels, State Library Aid has yet to recover, and the withheld funding continues to have devastating effects.
The cumulative effects of persistent recession-era are startling. The $111M in withheld funding since FY2009-10 is equivalent to completely de-funding State Library Aid for more than a full year, or de-funding base system and supplemental operating aid for more than two full years.
Of course, the point here is not to pit libraries and library funding against schools – we serve distinct but complimentary roles within the state’s educational infrastructure. Rather, as you are talking to your elected representatives about the importance of providing adequate funding for State Library Aid in this year’s budget, you should illustrate how under-funding State Library Aid has aggregate and exponential effects from which it is impossible to recover.