Education Law Center has renewed its call for the New York Legislature to quickly phase in funding of the $3.6 billion state aid shortfall required by the state’s 2007 Foundation Aid Formula as an essential precondition to any review or revision of the Formula’s costs, weights and local revenue calculations.
In testimony on December 3 before the Senate Standing Committees on Education and Budget, ELC Senior Attorney Wendy Lecker underscored that the failure to fully fund the Formula has forced New York’s high need districts to engage in “educational triage,” the unacceptable practice of rationing essential education resources among students because of limited funding.
Ms. Lecker noted that, lacking sufficient funds, districts were put in the position of deciding whether to offer needed after-school programs or hire teachers, to add preschool classrooms or support services for immigrant students, among many other choices.
“Forcing districts to choose which needs to address deprives all students of the resources required to succeed in school,” she said.
ELC’s testimony also stressed the importance of fully funding the Formula to set the stage for a long-overdue revaluation of the Formula’s base cost, student need (weights) and local fiscal capacity components. These elements were developed almost 15 years ago and have not been rigorously examined in light of major changes to New York’s curriculum content, student performance benchmarks, and the Regents recent adoption of college and career readiness as the State’s current standard for a “meaningful high school education,” the substantive definition of a sound basic education under the New York Constitution.
ELC noted that other states that have recently revisited their school funding formulas can serve as guides for New York. Maryland, for example, commissioned a new cost study in 2016 to update its decades-old formula. Cost experts found that the base or foundation amount required a substantial increase to account for new standards imposed since the formula’s enactment and the growth in student need across the state. Maryland’s experts recommended a $4,000 per-pupil increase in the base cost amount over the 2015 level. In sharp contrast, New York State has increased its foundation amount by only $1,450 per pupil since 2007.
ELC also stressed the importance of not assuming current funding levels are adequate, noting that new revenue will likely be necessary. Massachusetts, like New York, faces significant disparities between low- and high-need districts and had a formula that did not keep pace with changes in student demographics. To address these changed conditions, Massachusetts recently enacted the Student Opportunity Act, which calls for a $1.5 billion increase in state aid targeted to high-need districts.
ELC urged New York senators to follow the course charted by Massachusetts, Maryland, and other states to ensure New York’s Formula is up-to-date and based on an accurate assessment of the current needs of students, teachers and schools.
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