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Poor Districts Shortchanged in New York State, Advocacy Groups Say

The funding gap between New York state's 100 poorest and 100 wealthiest districts is $9,796 per student, an amount that grew during Gov. Andrew Cuomo's tenure, a pair of New York state advocacy groups said in a new report out on Wednesday.

The report, "No Appetite to Educate: Stacking the Deck Against Children In Poverty" by the Alliance for Quality Education and the Public Policy and Education Fund of New York, charges that the funding gap between wealthy and poor districts grew by $1,772 per student since the state ended its commitment in 2011 to the foundation aid formula it adopted in 2007. 

Foundation aid is supposed to distribute funding based on a number of factors, including need and school districts' ability to raise funds locally. The foundation aid formula was part of an agreement the governor and legislature struck in 2007 to comply with a ruling in the long-running school funding lawsuit over education funding filed by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. 

The report's author contends that if the state provided the full amount of foundation aid to districts, the gap between wealthier and poorer ones would shrink by $2,824 per student. (It also says that the two years—2007 and 2008—when the state put the full amount required into the foundation aid formula, the funding gap between poor and wealthier districts decreased.)

funding gap graph (3).jpg

According to the report, the graduation rates between poor and wealthy districts are far apart with a 92 percent rate in wealthier districts compared to a 66 percent graduation rate in poorer ones. Students in wealthier districts were also more likely to leave high school with the more rigorous Advanced Regents diploma, while only 1-in-5 students from poorer districts was likely to do so, according to the report.

While funding is not the only factor that explains the disparities in outcomes between poorer and wealthier districts, the report notes, "it would be absurd to contend that the tremendous extra educational opportunities that money buys in high spending communities do not make a substantial difference in students' education."

The report calls for a $2.9 billion increase in school funding in 2016, including a three-year phase in of foundation aid.

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