Funding for Public Schools

  • 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.”
  • 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.
  • The text of the education provision in the NY constitution has been unchanged since 1894.

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 for the benefit of teachers and students 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.

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