Equal Access Doesn’t Mean Equal Outcomes

problem

• New York State ranks Number 2 in the nation in educational inequality (The Education Trust, 2015).

• The gap in spending between the 100 wealthiest districts and the 100 poorest in New York State is $9796 per student. The current educational system relies disproportionally on property taxes rather than on state income taxes, guaranteeing major inequalities in education.

• The reason for this deplorable situation is the 1982 court case  Board of Education, Levittown Union Free School District v Nyquist, which stated “very real disparities” in local education funding “…do not establish that there has been a violation of either Federal or State Constitution.”

• The New York State Constitution Education Amendment, written 122 years ago and not updated since, does not guarantee fair or equitable funding per student when taking into account Federal, local and state money combined, nor does it put the burden on the state to provide additional services when student outcomes are deficient.

• In fact, State funding peaked in 2001-2 at 48.2% of education funding per student:

NY State Education Funding

From New York State Department of Education

• For the 2015-16 school year, state aid made up only 41.9% of school revenues, so state funding is still way behind where it was at the beginning of this century – and even that was still way too low.

• The entire approach to “high stakes” K-12 testing is wrong and has been wrong for decades. High-stakes testing has mainly been used to evaluate teachers and schools and to enable politicians to claim credit for meaningless statistical “improvements” in student performance.  Nothing has been done for testing to tell the teacher what help the student actually needs.

solution
There needs to be an in-depth debate about education in the state so we can replace the vague, antiquated language of the existing constitution with the best education amendment in the country.  Although there is much to discuss, the principals of the solution are clear:

• The property tax as the major funding source for education has to be substantially lowered, and the State must provide at least 60% of the funding for education.  This would move education funding from the state’s outrageously high property taxes to the fairer graduated income tax.

• The state has to assume the burden of funding school districts with smaller property tax bases to create at a minimum a real equality of funding from all sources (federal, state, local) per student, rather than ignoring outrageous inequalities across the state and blindly hoping for the best.

• The constitution must not only address inequities in education funding, but perhaps more importantly, place a burden on the state when education outcomes are deficient. The state is ultimately responsible for student outcomes.

• All statewide, formerly “high stakes” tests must be diagnostic and prescriptive. The State’s long-term goal is that every statewide test should provide every teacher with specific prescriptive suggestions to help each of their students overcome their deficiencies.

What do you think?

• “The model for using property taxes to finance schools, police, fire, and other services is no longer sustainable.” –Stephanie Miner, (D) Mayer of Syracuse.

New York’s Constitution requires the establishment of public schools, but does not commit the state to any educational standard.

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Article XI, New York Constitution
Section 1 (The text unchanged from the 1894 Constitution)
Common schoolsThe legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free common schools, wherein all the children of this state may be educated 

 

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Written in the age of the horse and buggy in 1894, the education provision in the New York Constitution is badly outdated.

It took nearly ninety years, in the 1982 court decision in Board of Education, Levittown Union Free School District v Nyquist, for the courts to establish the state’s responsibility for providing a
“sound basic education” for every student.

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Many states have constitutional provisions establishing the state’s obligation to educate youth.  Molly Hunter of the Education Law Center discusses these provisions in State Constitution Education Clause Language.  The following are some examples:

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learn
13 Ways High-Stakes Standardized Tests Hurt Students,” by Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post, March 11, 2014

Analysis of School Finances in New York State School Districts, The University of the State of New York, The State Education Department, Fiscal Analysis and Research Unit, January 2016.

Confirmed: Standardized Testing Has Taken Over Our Schools. But Who’s to Blame?” by Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post, October 24, 2015.

Decision 1997: Constitutional Change in New York,” by Gerald Benjamin and Henrik Dullea (ed.), Rockefeller Institute Press, 1997.

DiNapoli Warns School Districts Will Face Limited Revenue,” Nick Reisman, NY State of Politics,  September 12, 2016.

Education: Opt-out Movement Remains Strong Across New York,” by Jon Campbell, Democrat and Chronicle, March 2, 2017 |

The Education Dollar: A Look at Spending And Funding Trends,” New York State Association of School Business Officials, September, 2015.

New Jersey,” Education Law Center.

Funding Gaps 2015,” A report from the Education Trust, by Natasha Ushomirsky and David Williams, The Education Trust. Mar 25, 2015.

Governor Cuomo and Legislative Leaders Announce Agreement on the 2016-2017 State Budget,” Governor Cuomo’s Press Release, March 31, 2016.

Judge, Citing Inequality, Orders Connecticut to Overhaul Its School System,” Elizabeth A.  Harris, The New York Times, September 7, 2016.

New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) v. State of New York: Frequently Asked Questions,”  The Council of School Superintendents.

NEA Survey: Nearly Half Of Teachers Consider Leaving Profession Due to Standardized Testing,” by Tim Walker, NEA Today, November 2, 2014.

No Appetite to Educate,” Alliance for Quality Education, February, 2016.

The Past, Present And Future Of High-Stakes Testing,” by Anya Kamenetz, NPR, January 22, 2015.

State Constitution Education Clause Language, Molly A. Hunter, Education Law Center, Newark, NJ.

Statewide Testing: Problem or Solution for Failing Schools?” by Anne K. Soderman, Michigan Family Review, Volume 06Issue 1, Fall 2001, pp. 55-66

“Under Governor Cuomo, the Gap Between Rich and Pour Schools Rises to Historic Levels,” from the Alliance for Quality Education, February, 2016.

Why America’s Schools Have A Money Problem,” NPR, April 18, 2016,

Yearly Testing,” New York City Department of Education.

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