Tuesday meeting

Spring: State aid is discriminatory

Federal complaint claims ‘white’ districts get more

Friday, November 1, 2013
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Tuesday meeting

Buses park outside the Fine Arts Wing at Schenectady High School after school on April 9.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Buses park outside the Fine Arts Wing at Schenectady High School after school on April 9.

— When state education aid is doled out each year, it’s better to have white students than black and Hispanic students, alleges a complaint by the Schenectady City School District.

In the next few weeks, Schenectady schools Superintendent Laurence Spring plans to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, arguing the state’s funding for education is discriminatory because districts with a majority of minority students receive a smaller portion of the aid they’re due than districts with a majority of white students. The complaint is based on the difference between mandated state funding levels and what is actually received by districts.

The Schenectady school district received about 54 percent of what it was due this year, leaving a $60 million shortfall, according to the district.

Complaint signing

School and community members are invited to a meeting about the complaint at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Central Park International Magnet School. Attendees will have an opportunity to sign the complaint. A copy of the complaint is available on the Capital Region Scene.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state Legislature, the state Education Department and the state Board of Regents are all named in the complaint, which asks the federal government to investigate the state’s education funding formula and help secure an increase in state aid for affected districts.

The complaint stems from a foundation formula, born out of a 2006 state Court of Appeals ruling, that established how much money the state and local taxpayers should contribute to a school district in order to ensure an adequate education for students.

Based on that formula, Spring said about 135 districts receive more than 100 percent of the state aid they’re owed and about 500 districts receive less than they’re owed.

Looking at how much aid each district has received and that district’s demographic data, he concluded, “The higher percentage of white students in the district, the more likely the district was getting a higher percentage of that foundation formula.”

“Few districts with a majority minority population are getting anywhere close to the median level of aid,” he said.

In the case of Schenectady, this has meant increasing the burden on local property taxpayers and funding the district with less than is needed to appropriately educate its students, Spring contends.

The governor’s office and state Education Department wouldn’t comment on the pending complaint, but Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn highlighted the efforts of the state Board of Regents in support of equitable funding. In an attempt to help needy school districts, Cuomo pushed for and got an additional $1 billion for education aid in this year’s budget.

Despite the increase, districts were still shortchanged, a problem the state has had for more than five years. The waning days of each budget season in recent years have included protests from school districts calling for more funding.

Spring said filing a complaint with the federal government is the appropriate course of action where discrimination might not be intended, but is the result.

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November 2, 2013
7:29 a.m.
wmarincic says...

Get rid of the teachers unions and the schools will be able to operate at full capacity for about half of the money.

November 2, 2013
9:13 a.m.
irene58 says...

Whatever happened to the "Campaign for Fiscal Equity"? Had a lot of steam close to 10 years ago, regarding the formulas for figuring state aid, based on a lot more than just race. They won a lawsuit somewhere down the line, and then just seemed to drop off the face of the earth...

Not just unions, wmarincic, tenure has got to go as well.

November 2, 2013
1:37 p.m.
MikeJSilvestri says...

The Campaign For Fiscal Equity was successful and resulted in the Contract For Excellence in 2007. But that increased funding was then lost to The Gap Elimination Adjustment.
Former Gov. David Paterson introduced the GEA in 2010. It was supposed to be a temporary solution to closing the state's $10 billion budget deficit. It essentially spreads out some of the state's fiscal shortfall among all school districts by reducing the amount of Foundation Aid the state is supposed to pay the districts. So schools actually get funding on one budget line and then have it deducted on a subsequent GEA line. The GEA is much more detrimental to poorer districts whose budgets are based on a higher percentage of state funding. Schenectady's school budget shortfall has usually been almost exactly equal to its share of GEA.
While the CFE, passed by the legislature in reaction to the ruling, did help poor school districts it did so by increasing funding for all districts instead of moving funding from richer (mostly downstate) districts to poorer (mostly upstate and western NY) districts.

November 2, 2013
3:22 p.m.
tonijean613 says...

I am so impressed with Mr Spring ! He is a true advocate for Schdy kids! And he is right on ! Just look at the disparity btwn Nisky/Schdy ! Its outrageous! and right next door! Frankly, I would like to see a grand experiment and swap half the kids from each school and see what happens- would the rich kids suddenly do poorer? Would the deprived kids thrive? Is it the teachers or is it truly an impoverished environment that effects learning? hmmmmm...What if you swapped all the teachers for one year? hmmmmm???
Unions/tenure as the problem? don't know- MA spends less per student with same union protections and better results...why? whats different there?

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