Education Org Says New York State Owes School Districts Billions

The Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), a watchdog group, says the state of New York owes districts $4.9 billion in aid that it had promised the districts by 2011 to be in compliance with an earlier court ruling.  Buffalo’s WXXI reports the group as saying this is unfairly penalizing students in poorer districts.

AQE adds that the state owes districts an additional $1 billion in Gap Elimination Adjustment funding.  This money was taken from schools to help close budget deficits.

In a report authored by the AQE, the recommendation is that the state allocate the total $5.9 billion over the next four years, while, at the same time, adjusting school funding so that poorer districts are prioritized.

According to Joseph Spector, writing for the The Journal News, New York state spends more, per capita, on its schools than any other state in the country.  More specifically, that is $19,076 per student or $22 billion a year on education.  There will be a 5% increase in the current fiscal year.

Still AQE says in its report that the state is not doing enough.

“Systemic underfunding is leaving a generation of students in high need schools without access to the ‘sound basic education’ which is their constitutional right,” the report said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said that school aid continues to increase, but the spending has not seemed to lead to better results.  New York is in the middle of the nation as far as student performance is concerned.

“It’s not about ‘more money gets us more results,’ ” Cuomo said in a radio interview in January. “Because if that was the case, our students would be doing better than any students in the country; because we are spending more than anyone else.”

In another article for USA Today, Joseph Spector reports that New York froze state aid to schools in the 2009-2010 year, then cut it by almost $3 billion in the next two years.  Districts’  base aid was most affected.  According to the report, more than $1 billion has still not been recouped, and 69% of schools have less classroom operating aid than they did in 2008.

The Alliance for Quality Education’s platform , according to its website, includes:

• Mobilizing New York state communities to keep the state government on track concerning high-quality education for everyone, no matter their zip code.

• Using legislative and policy expertise to accomplish grassroots organization.

• Advancing strategies that lead students to success and support public demand for high-quality education for all New York students.

The report says that the best solution, though not a perfect one, is the Foundation Aid formula.  The formula was created to prioritize high-need schools and students.  It would take into account:

• The number of students in poverty

• The number of student with limited English language proficiency

• The number of disabled students

• The school district’s ability to raise local revenue on income and property wealth of its residents

It was created in 2007, but the AQE says it has not been followed properly.  The report says it is time to reinstate it and to make a new commitment to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.  This is a non-profit advocacy organization that has fought for sound basic education for all public school students in NYS.