Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Funding Inequities In NY School Districts Reach Record Level Under Governor Andrew Cuomo

Andrew Cuomo told the Daily News back in October that he wants to "break" the public school "monopoly" in New York State by attacking teachers and districts.

According to another Daily News article by Ken Lovett, Cuomo's already doing it by failing to properly fund the state's school districts:

ALBANY — In the opening salvo of what promises to be a heated battle this year over education reform, a new report says funding inequities between poor and rich school districts across the state has reached record levels under Gov. Cuomo - and has soared 43% in New York City.

Overall, schools in poorer districts spent $8,733 per pupil less in 2012 than those from wealthier ones, an inequity that grew by nearly 9% from before Cuomo took office in 2011, according to the study by a coalition of education advocacy groups opposing many of the reforms pushed by Cuomo.

While the 100 wealthiest districts spent on average more than $28,000 in state and local funding per kid in 2012, the 100 poorest districts in the state spent closer to $20,000 per student, the report found.

The report, obtained by the Daily News, is set to be released Monday. The coalition includes the Alliance for Quality Education, which is backed by the powerful teachers unions, the Public Policy and Education Fund of New York, Opportunity Action, and National Opportunity to Learn.
The inequity gaps were made worse by nearly $400 per pupil, the report says, after Cuomo won a 2% cap on local property tax increases that made it more difficult for needy districts to raise needed money, the report says.

Cuomo has already attacked the report, his spokesman couching the attack in the usual language deformers use - lies and misdirections:

Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said that the state provides three times as much per pupil in high-need districts than it does in low-need ones.

State education aid per pupil actually went up 9.3% during Cuomo’s first term, with a significantly higher percentage going to poorer districts, he said.

“It’s ludicrous that some special interests are seeking to create a false choice between closing the achievement gap between rich and poor districts and the Governor’s efforts to protect taxpayers, while also injecting accountability and innovation into the system,” Azzopardi said.

Notice the Cuomo flack doesn't address the funding inequity findings in the report at all - instead he states that education aid went up 9.3% overall in Cuomo's first term, which doesn't explain away the reports inequity charges in the least.

Classic Cuomo - here's a number that has nothing to do with the argument, accept it and move on, there's nothing to see here.

State aid goes up, but districts have less money because of the tax cap - that doesn't mean districts have more money, as the Cuomo flack suggests.

In addition, even if we take the Cuomo flack at face value (always a danger actually) and believe that state education aid per pupil went up 9.3% during Cuomo's first term, with a "significantly higher percentage going to poorer districts," that still doesn't address the report charges that "schools in poorer districts spent $8,733 per pupil less in 2012 than those from wealthier ones, an inequity that grew by nearly 9% from before Cuomo took office in 2011."

Even the NY Times editorial page, usually a friend to the kind of teacher-centered education reform Cuomo plans for his next term, gets that funding is the central issue in New York education:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s forthcoming State of the State address is expected to focus on what can be done to improve public education across the state.

If he is serious about the issue, he will have to move beyond peripheral concerns and political score-settling with the state teachers’ union, which did not support his re-election, and go to the heart of the matter. And that means confronting and proposing remedies for the racial and economic segregation that has gripped the state’s schools, as well as the inequality in school funding that prevents many poor districts from lifting their children up to state standards.

These shameful inequities were fully brought to light in 2006, when the state’s highest court ruled in Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York that the state had not met its constitutional responsibility to ensure adequate school funding and in particular had shortchanged New York City.
A year later, the Legislature and Gov. Eliot Spitzer adopted a new formula that promised more help for poor districts and eventually $7 billion per year in added funding. That promise evaporated in the recession, spawning two lawsuits aimed at forcing the state to honor it.

A lawsuit by a group called New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights estimates that, despite increases in recent years, the state is still about $5.6 billion a year short of its commitment under that formula.

A second lawsuit was filed on behalf of students in several small cities in the state, including Jamestown, Port Jervis, Mount Vernon and Newburgh. It says that per pupil funding in the cities, which have an average 72 percent student poverty rate, is $2,500 to $6,300 less than called for in the 2007 formula, making it impossible to provide the instruction and other services needed to meet the State Constitution’s definition of a “sound basic education.”

These communities and others like them are further disadvantaged by having low property values and by a statewide cap enacted in 2011 that limits what money they are able to raise through property taxes. And last year the New York State United Teachers union said that the cap had been particularly harmful to poorer districts.

These inequalities are compounded by the fact that New York State, which regards itself as a bastion of liberalism, has the most racially and economically segregated schools in the nation. A scathing 2014 study of this problem by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, charged that New York had essentially given up on this problem. It said, “The children who most depend on the public schools for any chance in life are concentrated in schools struggling with all the dimensions of family and neighborhood poverty and isolation.”

The Cuomo administration seemed not to acknowledge these issues in a letter last month to the chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents and the commissioner of education in which it promised “an aggressive legislative package” to improve education in the state. Among the dozen issues it said it wanted to address were strengthening the teacher evaluation system, improving the process for removing low-performing teachers and improving teacher training.

The regents agreed that these were legitimate issues needing attention. But they also noted that these reforms were unlikely to improve the schools unless they were paired with new investments along the lines of the $2 billion in extra spending that the regents had recommended earlier. No less pointedly, they urged Mr. Cuomo to address the “deeply disturbing inequalities in resources” that exist between poor and wealthy districts, as well as the destructive pattern of segregation. Mr. Cuomo must take on both of these central issues.

You know Cuomo's not coming in with any significant funding changes - that would make his hedge fundie donors and Wall Street criminal friends very, very sad since they might have to pay a little more out of their pockets.

Cuomo has no intention of making his donors or business criminal friends sad.

As for the segregation issue, well, that's a complex one that can't be fixed by Cuomo sticking some mandates into the state budget - so there's no way he's addressing that problem either.

The Cuomo attack on teachers is coming instead.

But the counterattack is coming too - the education problems Cuomo points to as "statewide" are limited to districts with poverty and income inequality issues and these problems are being exacerbated by Cuomo's current policies and future "reform" plans.


  1. Grit, rigor and sugar filled cereals are all poor kids need to overcome economic inequalities.

  2. Cuomo is a feckless corporate stooge. Tisch is a feckless corporate stooge. Gates is a feckless corporate stooge.

  3. The buried lede, of course, is that $20,000 per kid, which is the average of the poor districts in NYS, is a shitload of money. Well, well beyond the national average, even adjusted for cost of living. And in the upstate big cities, there is no gap--Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse all get considerably more per student than the white-flight suburbs that surround them.

    If these gaps matter, and there's actually very little evidence to suggest that they do, and if by any reasonable analysis $20,000 per student ought to be enough to run a school system, then why not propose legislation to make the wealthy districts spend less? Why is there so little support for consolidating small districts, which would send more money to classrooms? Why is there literally no interest in what would be the most equitable reform of all, decoupling school funding from property taxes? Where are the calls to fix the most serious inequity, which is residential and zoned-school segregation?

    The gap is a handy negotiating point, that's all.