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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Wed, Jun 18, 2008

Money for Needy Goes to Wealthy Schools, Report Says

Jennifer Medina, The New York Times

Even as students, parents and teachers continue to protest school budget cuts, there is another debate brewing — just what makes a high-need school?

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the advocacy group that successfully battled a 13-year lawsuit for billions of dollars more for New York City schools, released a report on Tuesday evening detailing how the city is spending roughly $230 million in new education money from the state.

According to the analysis, the Education Department is distributing much of that money -– more than 40 percent -– to schools that are either high-performing, wealthy, or both. Under state law, 75 percent of the money should be distributed to schools with the “greatest educational needs.”

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein has asked the state to loosen its regulations on $63 million in state money to distribute it to wealthier schools, saying that such rules unfairly hurt some of the city’s most coveted schools. But the report indicates that Mr. Klein is already distributing the money to those kinds of schools. (In a brief article about the report in The Daily News, school officials disputed the methodology.)

“They’re already trying to do whatever they want and ignoring state law,” said Geri D. Palast, the executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, who added that the State Education Department should demand that the city revise its allocations.

“The community rallied together to obtain this funding not to plug budgets gaps or enable the city to spend less on education but to level the playing field for our city’s most vulnerable students,” said Kim Sweet, the executive director of Advocates for Children, an advocacy group.

This evening, David Cantor, a spokesman for the Deaprtment of Education, issued this statement explaining in more detail the department’s concerns about the report’s methodology:
The D.O.E.’s distribution of Contracts for Excellence funding complies with State regulations. Under State law, districts may grant up to 25 percent of their Contracts for Excellence funding to less needy schools (schools in the “lower 50% of need”) as determined by a State formula. Using that formula, New York City is currently allocating $83 million out of $386 million to these schools, well under the allowable distribution of $96 million. The [Campaign for Fiscal Equity] report suggests alternative methodologies for defining schools “in need,” but by law the D.O.E. must comply with the designations outlined by the State, and that is precisely what we have done.

The $386 million is $242 restricted C4E + $30 Maintenance of Effort C4E + $113 new needs that are eligible for C4E. We have distributed $231 million of it so far; it appears that the Campaign for Fiscal Equity report is analyzing an incomplete data set, which would return invalid results.

Also, it should be noted that “less needy” does not equal “high performing.” There are SINI schools in there, as well as schools serving large populations of ELLs, students with disabilities, students in poverty, and low academic achievers. SED treats all of these things equally–so if you are a small school with 30% ELLs, you may not wind up considered high-needs according to this index because you don’t have the cumulative numbers to get you into the top 50 percent.


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 >