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March 21, 2014

A new report finds that New York compares quite unfavorably with neighboring New Jersey when it comes to school funding and student performance. The "Tale of Two States" report examines funding levels, how funds are distributed among school districts, and the results, showing stark disparities in student test scores and graduation rates. 

The report was prepared by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Project at Education Law Center, the Alliance for Quality Education and the Public Policy & Education Fund of New York. The report's findings fly in the face of Governor Cuomo's repeated assertions that "it is not about the money" in New York schools.

Both New York and New Jersey are high spending when it comes to state aid to schools. New York ranks second among states, and New Jersey ranks fifth. However, while New Jersey is a leader in school funding fairness, New York is a laggard. New York's high-need districts must try to make do with 87 cents for every dollar spent in high-wealth, low-poverty schools.

New Jersey provides more state funding to high-poverty districts than to more affluent ones, in order to address the additional needs of low-wealth students. That system pays off. New York's high average spending masks major differences in funding from district to district that shortchanges high-need students, denying them educational opportunities.

New York's inequitable funding distribution leads to lower student performance, in sharp contrast to New Jersey's better outcomes. For all groups of students, New Jersey significantly outperforms New York, largely due to the fairness of its funding system.

Low-income students, students with disabilities, students with limited English proficiency, Black students and Hispanic students in New Jersey have graduation rates ranging from seven percentage points to twenty-nine percentage points higher than in New York. New Jersey considerably outperforms New York on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), among all students and also among low-income students in particular.

"Ignoring the needs of New York's students has produced shameful results, as the 'Tale of Two States' report shows," said Chairman of the Black, Hispanic, Puerto Rican and Asian Legislative Caucus Karim Camara. "Inequity in this state has produced a wide gap between the haves and have nots, which continues to grow each year that the state ignores the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. Just across the river in New Jersey, we have a great example of how to close that gap. Let's take a lesson from our neighbors and stop the inequality."

"As a New Yorker it hurts to say I am jealous of New Jersey, but they are clearly beating us when it comes to educational equity," said Billy Easton, Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education. "For Governor Cuomo to keep saying money does not matter in education is simply ignoring the facts of educational inequality in New York. New Jersey's higher spending in high poverty schools results in substantially higher graduation rates."

"New Jersey stands out as a beacon of educational equity," said David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center. "Its commitment to fair school funding pays huge dividends in outcomes for kids. By contrast, New York's continued failure to support fair funding for schools shortchanges students and leads to significantly lower graduation rates than in New Jersey's high-needs communities. The [New York] Governor's budget proposal is entirely inadequate to address this educational inequality. The legislature needs to act now to increase school aid by $1.9 billion and make sure it is fairly distributed."

A deal must be struck on the New York State Budget for FY15 by April 1, and state leaders say they expect to meet that deadline. It remains to be seen whether the state will make any progress on school funding, in an effort to reverse the regressive nature of the current system.

Related Stories:
New York School Funding Among Nation's Most Unfair
New York Times Article: "In Education, Edge Still Goes to Rich"
Education Justice Press Contact:
Molly A. Hunter, Esq.
Director, Education Justice
email: mhunter@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x19

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