The (Maryland) Kirwan Commission: Is It Time for New York State to Investigate Changing School Funding Formulas As Well As Educational Governance and Priorities?

A month to go until the New York State budget will be approved and a core part of the budget is school aid.

New York State leads the nation, by far, in per capita funding, is at the top of the list for most disparate funding within the state, and NAEP scores  are flat and “perform significantly lower than national scores.”

The governor has noted the disparities time and time again; however, the school funding system in New York State remains unchanged. About 2/3 of funding comes from local property taxes and 1/3 from state funding, primarily through the Foundation Aid Formula.  The Foundation Aid Formula dispenses state budget dollars in order to ease the disparity between high wealth/high tax and low wealth/low tax districts.

Over the last month the legislature has held hearing on the state budget, the state commissioner, the unions, school districts, schools boards and advocates all advocating for more dollars. The Board of Regents and the legislature budget priorities and the governor’s proposals are far apart.

The former leader of the Citizen’s Budget Commission is sharply critical of the school aid funding process,

 Every district and its legislators will fervently argue that more school aid is needed, that its schools are underfunded, and that its students will suffer serious harm if more money isn’t devoted to them as soon as possible. But in fact, the vast majority of New York’s schools are generously funded, while our results in terms of achievement are only mediocre. Instead of targeting additional aid to the few truly needy districts, all are given more.

 Aside from the funding formula another question is how school districts distribute the funds to schools within the districts,

… the Rockefeller Institute of Government found that the poorest schools in New York City get 12 percent less per student than the wealthiest schools. In Buffalo, the poorest schools received 26 percent less per student than the richest schools. Cuomo called the current school funding formula a “scam”…  “You gave money to the poorer district, but they didn’t give it to the poorer schools,” he sai

Additionaaly, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decsion has not been fully implemented and the governor casts aside the billions “owed” to state schools.

In spite of the threats and chest pounding in both houses of the legislature sometime late on March 31st and into the early morning of April 1st the legislature will pass a budget.

Does the New York State need a major reform of the education funding process along with the management structure and educational priorities?

The Kirwan Commission has spent the last two years crafting a proposal to restructure the education system in the state of Maryland.

The 243-page interim report of the Commission calls for,

INCREASED BASE AND WEIGHTS The Commission must increase its base amount of funding per pupil and the weights for special populations must remain high enough to address the additional resources and services needed to educate students in Maryland schools.

 UNIVERSAL PRE-K There must be funding to provide access to high quality, childhood programing/prekindergarten for 4 year olds and (low income) 3 year olds.

 POVERTY PROXY The Commission must adopt an efficient and effective way to count low-income students, such as direct certification with a multiplier, in order to properly direct funding and resources to the schools with greater need. Any additional form is burdensome and counter-productive.

 MULTIPLICATIVE WEALTH CALCULATION The multiplicative wealth measure will provide a more accurate reflection of a jurisdictions ability to pay, it results in state and local contribution targets that ensure all students receive the same funding across the state.

 ADDRESS CONCENTRATED POVERTY The Commission recommendations must include resources to combat the negative impacts of poverty on school communities, which could be in the form of an additional weight or an escalator that provides additional funding for schools at a certain threshold of poverty

 There are many other recommendations, and, the full implementation would greatly increase the cost of education in Maryland, the report does not address how the state would raise the needed dollars. Additionally a third of the commission members appended “individual statements,” sometimes called, “Yes, But …” or “reservations.

The members of the commission include many of the power brokers in the state from across the political spectrum.

I have no idea whether the Maryland governor and legislature will implement the recommendations.

In New York State, in spite of the “strurm und drang” the education budget passes each year without significant changes – the “rich get richer” and the “poor get poorer.” To maintain their new majority in the Senate the newly elected Democrats are likely to advocate just as hard as their Republican predecessors to maintain the current inequitable funding formula.

In addition, are the 700 school districts with elected school boards and 700 collective bargaining agreements the most efficient and effective way to manage the 4400 schools in the state?  Very few school districts have ever merged. Maybe the very local decision-making process best serves the needs of schools; on the other hand, perhaps, the system is an ineffective anachronism.

Is the current Board of Regents, selected by joint meeting of the legislature the most effective governance structure? Or, should education policy makers be apart from governatorial politics?

I don’t know any of the answers: is it time for a commission, selected by the governor and the legislature, with a staff, with totally transparent meetings and full public input?

The Kirwan Commission conducted fifteen full day meetings over two years, and, the interim report is far from implementation.

New York State will continue to spend significant dollars, and spend the dollars inequitably, and, there are no guarantees that the dollars are well-spent.

Perhaps its time to find a path to a better education system.

One response to “The (Maryland) Kirwan Commission: Is It Time for New York State to Investigate Changing School Funding Formulas As Well As Educational Governance and Priorities?

  1. Interesting. Check out what Montgomery County did w their $$$$ & some of the changes they implemented. The county is very diverse w high wealth areas & much lower income & high needs areas as well. Equally varied w a diverse immigrant population& test scores & hs grad rates improved. This occurred
    under Obama adm. funding. No Betsy.

    Like

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