Focus returns to NYC’s per-student funding formula as school budget cuts loom

For nearly two decades, the main problem with the fair student funding formula was that many schools weren’t getting their full allocation — which city officials said was because the state didn’t pay its share. total funding that had been mandated as part of a court case from the early 2000s.

Then, starting last year, Albany’s new Democratic majority began phasing in the state bond, and the city distributed additional funds so that all schools received 100% of their allocation according to the formula.

But critics argue that the formula has other flaws. They say it still does not set aside sufficient resources to adequately serve groups it identifies as needing additional support, and that tying funding to individual students can make it difficult to meet mandates since the number of students each year does not always fully cover the cost of a teacher.

For example, some special education students are legally entitled to be placed in classes of no more than 12 students, resulting in a student-teacher ratio of 12-1. However, schools often have between 12 and 24 of these pupils – more than for one class, but not enough for a second – forcing principals to pay for an extra teacher without sufficient funds provided under the formula, or to place the students in larger classes. .

“If you need to be in a 12-1 class, that should be provided for you,” said Jenn Choi, a consultant who helps parents navigate special education.

The de Blasio administration formed its own task force on fair student funding in 2019. The group met regularly until the end of that year, but the administration never released the group’s recommendations. of work.

“Publish it would have been admitting the problem,” said NeQuan McLean, chair of the Community Education Council and member of the task force.

Instead, a group of education advocates including McLean made the recommendations public in 2021. In addition to calling for more funding for English-language learners and those in special education, the The task force also argued that the city should allocate additional dollars for the approximately 100,000 students in the school system who live in temporary housing and the nearly 8,000 students in foster care.

He also called for increased investment for schools where many students live in poverty, and for all secondary schools, as opposed to the current increase in funding that is currently given to specialized and selective schools. And he recommended increasing base funding for all schools so that each is budgeted for a social worker, vice-principal, secretary and library, among other positions.

Now advocates want the city to follow those recommendations, and pressure to overhaul the system is mounting among the city’s elected officials.

Council President Adrienne Adams, who has railed against recent budget cuts alongside a majority of her colleagues, is pushing for reform.

“Policy is dysfunctional. It’s been proven year after year and if nothing is done about DOE policy, the same things will continue to happen,” she told a conference. press Thursday.

The formula must be approved each year, and in April the Panel for Education Policy took an unprecedented step by voting against it – a decision by Education Department officials who said principals had delayed receiving their budgets individual schools.

This year’s formula was finally approved in May after hours of testimony from parents and advocates criticizing the model. Banks said he agrees improvements are needed.

“It’s a system I inherited but I’m fully committed to fixing it,” he told the meeting.

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