The New York State Education Conference Board in a paper released Thursday urged state officials to not reduce aid to schools amid a budget season that could prove to be one of the toughest facing the state in a generation. 

“In these unprecedented times, schools need more support, not less,” said the group's chairman John Yagelski. “Over the past months schools have supported families, teachers, staff and communities in astounding ways, and now is the time for our state policy makers to support them back.”

The group is composed of school business leaders as well as teachers unions.

School spending could be reduced by as much as 20% unless a federal aid package is approved that helps offset the billions of dollars in New York has lost during the pandemic. The state budget is due March 31. 

A stimulus measure has stalled in Washington since the spring, and clarity over whether direct aid to states will come won't be apparent, potentially, until after a pair of Georgia Senate seats are filled in runoff elections. 

The paper found schools face $5.2 billion in revenue losses if the 20% reduction is approved. Reducing spending by that percentage amount is about double the size of any other state aid cut in history. 

And mid-year cuts during the school year -- New York's fiscal year is April to March, school budgets are put to voters in May -- could have especially devastating effects going forward, the group warned.