Three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, schools are facing a fresh round of struggles to help students with continued learning loss, mental health complications and in some districts chronic absenteeism. 

As lawmakers negotiate a $227 billion budget proposed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, calls are being made to help school districts repair from the pandemic-induced problems. 

“Every student, especially young people in my district from rural areas, deserves the same support from the state," said Republican state Sen. Jake Ashby. "Funding for students in the state budget means improving our schools without burdening local property taxpayers. These are common sense provisions that will help our kids thrive academically, feel safe at school and access mental health services if they’re struggling."

Ashby is backing universal school lunches, money for mental health counselors and resource officers from the State Police at every school as well as librarians. And he wants to expand after school programming with a dedicate funding stream for districts. 

Ashby outlined his push for the proposals in a letter to Hochul sent this week. 

“It’s important that discussions about how to improve outcomes for our students happen in the context of the budget," he said. "Too often, the state makes demands from local districts without providing the resources to get the job done. I believe these proposals will make a big difference for students and I believe they should be a priority in the budget. We can help students catch up and stay ahead in the future."

Hochul this year has proposed an increase in direct aid to school districts that has long been called for by education advocates in New York.