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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Tue, Oct 12, 2010

NY Ranked Fourth from Last in Fair Distribution of Education Funds

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Despite high spending, national survey finds only three states worse in terms of fairness

A new national Report Card on education spending has found that New York ranks 46th out of 50 in terms of the fairness of its funding for public schools.

The 50-state evaluation of school funding by researchers at Rutgers University and the Education Law Center in Newark, N.J., found that despite New York’s relatively high per-pupil spending, the statewide average is skewed by high spending in affluent suburbs. The Report Card found that New York, which got a “D” for funding distribution, was among 20 states that “have regressive funding systems, providing high-poverty districts with less state and local revenue than low-poverty districts.”

Geri Palast, Executive Director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), said, “The courts have found that New York’s school funding formula denied children their constitutional right to a sound basic education. In response, the Legislature passed the 2007 Education Budget and Reform Act that would have helped address these longstanding inequities. But only one-year of the multi-year plan has been fully funded, and the result is that New York continues to have one of the least equitable school funding systems in the nation.”

In 2007, the Education Budget and Reform Act created a foundation formula based on need and set out a four year phase-in plan to add $5.5 billion statewide to school funding to correct these inequities. The Report Card is based on data from 2007, that same year, and shows that New York’s highest needs districts received only 82% of the funding for districts with 0% poverty. The Report Card Update for 2008 reports that this share rises to 84% in after the first year of CFE investment, which was reflected in an average $1000 per student increase in NY state funding. Unfortunately, the implementation of the CFE settlement was only partially funded in FY 2009, frozen in FY 2010, and then the freeze level was cut this year, FY2011. Worse still, lawmakers chose to use federal stimulus funds over these last two years to restore school expense aids while freezing and then cutting foundation aid, which worsened the already regressive impact of the funding cuts.

By comparison, neighboring New Jersey got an “A”, ranking second in the nation on equity after implementation of a plan to meet a similar court order. High poverty districts received 140% of 0 poverty districts in 2007 and 139% in 2008.

Billy Easton, Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), said, “After 13 years of litigation, a court order, and a legislative commitment to providing a sound basic education for every public school student, New York continues to score at the bottom. Affluent, residential suburban school districts in New York impose on themselves relatively high local property tax levies and get a high quality education in return. But without sustained investment by the state, poor districts will not have the same ability to provide excellent schools.”

CFE, AQE and the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) urged state leaders to reinvest in foundation aid, the school aid prioritized to benefit the neediest students, to ensure that the neediest schools and students, particularly those students who are struggling, get the resources necessary to meet ever increasing standards, and to eliminate property tax subsidies for high-income property owners.

Utah, New Jersey, Minnesota and Ohio led the survey in terms of fairness of their funding methods. Behind New York at number 46 were Illinois, Nevada and New Hampshire.

The Education Law Center, sponsor of the report, along with CFE and AQE, advocate on behalf of public school children for access to an equal and adequate education under state and federal laws.

The National Report Card provides a much deeper understanding of the condition of school funding systems across the nation, and our sincere hope is that it will be used to push for fair and equitable school funding for all children, regardless of where they live. “

An electronic version of “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card” and an Executive Summary have been attached with this press release. Also visit the report website at for more information. For additional information about school funding and education equity in the 50 states, visit Education Justice, a program of Education Law Center, at

Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >