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Inequities in Funding

June 19 2013
RECENT CONVERSATIONS

INEQUITIES IN STATE AID

Superintendents join Spring for discussion about disparate impact & possible civil rights complaint

Superintendent Larry Spring was joined by leaders from the City School District of Albany, the Enlarged City School District of Middletown and Copiague Public Schools on Wednesday, June 12, to discuss how their school districts are disparately impacted due to the way New York State school aid is implemented and how to make a push for New York State leaders to do something about it. The superintendents are exploring the possibility of filing a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). They will continue to discuss the options and soon decide how to move forward.

Spring, who has embraced the notion of equity and emphasized such since his first days in Schenectady, said he is outraged that the color of a school district plays a role in determining state funding. He invited other superintendents to the table at Proctors recently to talk about the issue, share thoughts and ideas and decide how to proceed. Spring has already brought his data and concerns to the attention of state lawmakers, to no avail. He said that the state government is not voluntarily going to take money away from wealthier districts and give it to the districts that are unfunded; unless, they are forced by the federal government. “Being poor is not a protected class,” said Spring.  “However, if you are driving aid away from a protected class of citizens … that’s a federal issue.” After having some preliminary conversations with OCR, Spring is compelled to continue the discussion.

Superintendent Marguerite VandenWyngaard of Albany, Dr. Kenneth Eastwood of Middletown, Charles Leunig of Copiague and Spring each lead districts that are majority non-white, have a less than average combined wealth ratio and are being significantly shortchanged in state aid.

Data shows that school districts that are predominately white are much more likely to receive a greater portion of their school funding than districts in which minorities are the majority. In fact, Spring said that a minority-as-majority districts are three times as likely to be underfunded.

Schenectady, one of the poorest districts in the state with a CWR of .386, is 66% non-white and receives just 54% of Foundation Aid, a difference of $62 million.

All four districts are funded well below the median of 82%. Albany has a CWR of .727, is 60% non-white and receives 64% of funding. Middletown has a CWR of .594, is 77% non-white and receives 56% of funding. Copiague has a CWR of .708, is 80% non-white and receives 55% of funding.

The superintendents are convinced that state politics are interfering with change. “But, the federal government has the power to step in and say, ‘This is not ok,’” said Spring.

“We’re right back where we were in the 60's relative to the distribution of state aid in a discriminatory manner,” said Eastwood, who has already filed a complaint with the local NAACP. “It’s time for the groups that represent those students and families to start getting a little loud and a little emphatic about saying ‘wait a minute, our kids deserve what is necessary'.” Like Schenectady’s superintendent, Eastwood is not hiding and said that he will speak up about it. “It’s absolutely unfair, based on color,” he said. “No one wants to talk about it.”

“Having to cut services that most likely help kids catch up and level the playing fields… I think that is actually antithetical to the purpose of public education,” said Spring. He also emphasized that the situation has a significant impact on the entire community. “As the tax rate goes up, we see an increase in the numbers of foreclosures and evictions. That lowers property values,” he said.

The leaders left the meeting with some key questions to mull over. Will they file a complaint? If yes, will they do it individually or together? What will the timing of that be? Should another group file the complaint instead but with support of the districts? They also spoke about reaching out to outside agencies like the NAACP and the Black/Hispanic Caucus.

They will reconvene and do hope to have a plan in the works this summer.

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June 19 2013

Hamilton 6th grader upset over funding inequities & discrimination, calls for meeting with the superintendent More