NYC quietly cuts per-student funds under controversial formula

The city’s Department of Education has used a controversial budget formula to quietly cut the funds New York public schools are expected to receive per student next year, The Post has learned.

In an internal memo obtained by The Post, DOE Chief Financial Officer Lindsey Oates told superintendents and principals that per-student funding for the next school year “has fallen slightly” because the city is spending less on salaries. teachers.

This decrease is due to the high number [sic] teachers retiring, resigning and going on leave over the past year,” read a June 3 memo.

That includes more experienced teachers earning higher salaries leaving the DOE payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic, officials told The Post.

The DOE said the average teacher salary has dropped, but would not disclose by how much citywide.

Some principals and teachers who discovered the per-student cuts by reviewing their proposed budgets said they felt cheated by the DOE, blaming the changes for harming children and the school as a whole.

An internal Department of Education memo says per-student funding for next school year “has dropped slightly” because the city is spending less on teacher salaries.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Mayor Eric Adams has repeatedly said that declining student enrollment at DOE schools is to blame for cut budgets totaling up to millions of dollars.

“We haven’t cut funding,” Adams insisted.

“Not a single child will lose Fair Student Funding money,” Adams said, referring to the formula that sets the largest share of each school’s budget.

Each school’s budget allocation under Equitable Student Funding is based on the number of students enrolled and their specific needs.

Mayor Eric Adams makes an announcement at City Hall.
Mayor Eric Adams said the city has not cut DOE funding and blamed declining student enrollment for cut budgets totaling up to millions of dollars.
Steven Hirsch

But the city has not publicly disclosed that the DOE has cut dollars per student.

Under the DOE’s formula this fall, principals will receive a baseline of at least $4,197.19 for each general education student, down from a minimum of $25.81 per child, confirmed the DOE.

Since the dollar amount per student has been reduced, even schools that have not seen their enrollment numbers drop could face a thinner budget.

The benchmark figure is also weighted by other factors, so the amount per pupil may increase depending on each child’s needs, such as school support, English learning or disabilities. But these additional funds will also be reduced under the formula.

Students are led to their class by their teacher.
A spokesperson for the mayor reiterated that the city is contributing more overall to the education budget next school year than last year.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The Independent Budget Office, a state-funded watchdog, confirmed the change would mean less money for schools under the formula.

“If per capita amounts are reduced, school budgets are reduced,” said Sarita Subramanian, the IBO’s deputy director for education.

DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer confirmed the rate “has gone down” due to a change in average teacher salaries.

But he claimed the number of students eligible for academic aid had increased, “resulting in a new cost despite the slight drop per capita”.

The DOE would not give the additional number of students meeting these needs.

A former Queens school principal told the Post that the DOE’s approach to allocating funds does not put students first.

“It’s kind of ‘kids last’ in budgeting rather than ‘kids first’,” the veteran administrator said.

“Have you ever played Three Card Monte?” the ex-principal told the Post, referring to a street game where crooks place cards face down and shuffle them to confuse players.

“It’s kind of like Three-card Monte went to college.”

A Queens teacher who learned of the per-student discount also accused the city of trying to mislead the public.

“Saying that the schools are 100% fully funded has always been a lie,” she said.

New York Schools Chancellor David C. Banks discusses guns in New York public schools during a press conference at New York City Police Headquarters on May 26, 2022.
New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks has promised to review and “fix this mess” in the future, in reference to the controversial formula.
Andrew Schwartz/SIPA/Shutterstock

The Panel for Education Policy is expected to hear public comment and vote on the DOE’s estimated annual budget for the next school year Thursday evening.

But a public guide to the fair student funding formula was still not posted online as of Wednesday evening. (A link to the memo only said “Coming Soon.”)

At recent PEP meetings, many parents and advocates have fiercely opposed the current fair student funding formula which they say bypasses vulnerable students, including those who are homeless or in foster care. . The DOE did not discuss the per capita reduction during the hearings.

While a majority of PEP members, mostly those named by Adams, ultimately voted to approve the formula, Schools Chancellor David Banks pledged to review and “fix this mess” in the future.

A masked student receives an in-person art lesson at Yung Wing School PS 124 on January 5, 2022 in New York City.
Even schools that haven’t seen a drop in enrollment may be facing a thinner budget.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

This week, Adams continued to defend low school budgets, calling the decision “common sense” as student enrollment dwindles.

“We’re making the right investments in a DOE budget,” Adams told an independent news conference. “There’s fat in city agencies, there’s a lot of waste in city agencies.”

Overall, total spending per student averages about $28,000, but includes additional costs like employee pensions and benefits, transportation, food, and building maintenance. Money allocated under Fair Student Funding goes to principals for staff, supplies, and other basic school expenses.

“We got addicted to throwing money at something,” Adams said. “No, let’s use taxpayers’ money to produce a better product.”

Amaris Cockfield, spokesperson for the mayor, reiterated that the city is contributing more to the education budget overall next school year than last year. She said all schools are fully funded under the formula.

“Any other notion without all the elements of the fair student funding formula is wrong,” Cockfield said. “The reality is that the citywide average teacher salary goes down or up if and when teachers with a salary range come in and out of the system.”

“Teachers and schools deserve honesty, not speculation.”

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