Not much time to write about this, but I finally got my hands on the state aid runs for NY state school districts which were, in an unprecedented and utterly obnoxious move by the Gov, held hostage throughout the budget “negotiations” (if we can call it that).
Quick review – NY operates a state aid calculation formula built on the premise that each district, given its geographic location (labor costs) and pupil needs requires a certain target level of funding to achieve desired outcomes.
Target = Base x Pupil Needs x Regional Cost
The state then determines what share of that target shall be paid by local districts, the rest to be allocated in state aid.
State Aid = Target – Local Contribution
A few really important points are in order before I move forward with the updated estimates. First, those targets are supposed to be aligned with costs of achieving desired outcomes. Higher outcomes cost more to achieve, with greater marginal cost effects where student needs are higher. As I’ve explained previously, the state has continued to increase those outcome targets, but has continued to lower the funding target. This is a formula for failure!
And, in 2015-16, they’ve done it again. The “base cost” figure which drives the formula has again been decreased, thus leveling down target funding across the board, all else equal.
So, with this in mind, any/all funding gaps I discuss below should be considered only funding gaps with respect to what the state would like to pretend is its full funding obligation. What in reality is a low-balled, manipulated figure that downplays substantially the true obligation with respect to current outcome goals. The actual full funding obligation, given increased standards over time, is likely much higher… much higher. There’s no excuse for lowering the target – and continuing year after year to push the date for hitting that target out further. None.
However, from the state perspective, this manipulative game of lowering the outcome target can make it appear that they are getting closer to hitting it. Separately, as I explained on another recent post, one can make the state aid shortfalls look less bad if one requires a higher local contribution, another game used in previous budget years.
Let’s start with the positive. Yes, the adopted state budget does, on average, increase per pupil state aid and does so in higher amounts in districts serving needier pupils:
Not bad. We’ve got districts getting what would appear to be hundreds of dollars per pupil in increased state aid. But, remember, this is only a small dent in the funding gaps. Let’s first look at the funding gaps for 2015-16 for those districts Angry Andy called miserable failures who should be subjected to the death penalty.
Here, we’ve got districts that in the best case, are still being shorted around $1,500 per pupil in state aid. Every one of Angry Andy’s failing districts will continue to be substantially underfunded – against the state’s own low-ball estimates – for yet another year. All in the name of Angry Andy’s Awesome Austerity Experiment. Regarding a similar “experiment” in Kansas, a 3 judge panel noted “it is experimenting with our children which have no recourse from a failure of the experiment.”
And what about small city school districts, who recently had their case heard in Albany? Well, first off, some of them are among the Angry Andy failures.
And generally, their state aid gaps remain large – really large. And again, these are gaps with respect to low-balled targets – and after jacking up the supposed local responsibility to fund those targets.
So, who’s to blame here? Well, obviously, it’s not the funding gaps – it’s those lazy teachers and the complicit administrators who give those teachers good ratings even when they can’t produce test score gains.
I close with an update of the 50 districts with the largest funding gaps going into 2015-16. And here they are:
For previous reports/lists, see: