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July 9, 2012

New York is considered "high spending" when it comes to public education. But does the Empire State fairly fund its public schools?

The answer is a resounding no, according to just released data in the Second Edition of the National Report Card "Is School Funding Fair?" The National Report Card ranks New York as among the nation's most unfair when it comes to funding public education.

New York's performance shows that, while well-to-do suburbs in the Empire State have some of the highest funding levels in the nation, lower wealth cities, towns and rural areas receive dramatically lower school funding despite often having to address much higher levels of student need.

The disparity in school funding between high and low poverty districts across the state is so great that New York's finance system stands out as deeply "regressive."

The National Report Card, first issued in 2010, posits that stable and equitable state systems of school finance are an essential precondition for the delivery of a high-quality education and of critical importance to efforts to close persistent achievement gaps among the nation's low income students, English language learners, and students with disabilities.

The Report Card evaluates state school finance systems on four separate, but interrelated, "fairness indicators" -- funding level, funding distribution, state fiscal effort, and public school coverage. A fair school funding system is one that provides a funding level sufficient to support delivery of rigorous academic standards, distributed to districts to address the additional needs generated by student poverty.

While New York ranks high on funding level, it performs poorly on the funding distribution relative to student poverty.

New York's relatively high average spending of $17,385 per pupil (adjusted to allow for national comparisons) places it third among all states. On fairness, however, the state receives a "D" grade because average funding levels in high poverty districts are lower than average spending levels in low poverty districts. This "Regressive" funding structure, in which poor districts spend only 82 cents for every dollar spent in wealthier districts, severely disadvantages low-income students.

The National Report Card shows that New York's overall average spending masks a fundamental flaw in its system of funding public schools, New York's extremely wealthy suburban districts use local property taxes to maintain some of the highest spending in the country, while urban and rural districts with greater needs and less capacity to raise local funds struggle with levels of state aid that are inadequate to offset their low property wealth.

The substantial unfairness in New York's distribution of school funding serves as a stark backdrop to a pending lawsuit -- Hussein v. State of New York -- filed by students in over a dozen "small city" school districts, including Albany, Troy and Jamestown. In June 2012, the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, denied the State's motion to dismiss and the students' claim for fair school funding will now proceed to trial.

Visit the website "Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card" for the complete Report and Executive Summary. The website also features new interactive data reports and links to the 2010 edition of the report.

Related Stories:
The Garden State: A Beacon of Educational Equity in the Region
Education Justice Press Contact:
Molly A. Hunter, Esq.
Director, Education Justice
email: mhunter@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x19

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