Senate Republican & IDC Budget Proposals Shaft High Need Schools, Perpetuate Racial and Economic Inequities in School Funding
ALBANY (March 15, 2017) – The Senate Republican and Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) budget proposals include a dramatic overhaul of the Foundation Aid formula that is designed to shortchange high need public schools. These budget bills would perpetuate racial and economic inequity in school funding. The two budget resolutions are based upon the plan contained in the Senate Majority budget bills to replace the existing Foundation Aid formula with six new formulas that ignore student poverty and students with disabilities, and shortchange English Language learners.
“The Independent Democrats have joined with the Senate Republicans to shaft high need students across the state,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “If you are a student in poverty or a student with disabilities, this budget plan says you do not matter. If you live in one of the state’s largest cities this proposal says you barely count. And if you are an English Language learner, this budget tries to trick you into believing you count while severely shortchanging your educational opportunities. It is dastardly for Senators who have introduced these budget bills to mislead these students by saying they are helping them. These budget resolutions expose the sheer hypocrisy of the entire IDC coalition with the Senate Republicans.”
While not totally repealing the Foundation Aid formula as proposed by the Governor, the Senate Republican and IDC budget bills would eliminate the core purpose of the Foundation Aid formula and replace it with six different formulas. Five of these formulas specifically exclude additional funding for Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Yonkers and four of them exclude New York City. They are proposing to eliminate entirely any additional funding based upon poverty, as well as additional funding based upon students with disabilities.
While the Senate Republicans and IDC tout their plan as helping English Language learners, this is a grave distortion. Their budget plan would discontinue the use of the weighting within the Foundation Aid formula based on English Language learners — which is highly effective at driving money to meet these students’ needs. Instead it would would create a new formula for English Language learners that is minimal in its benefit to these students. It excludes the Big Five Cities entirely despite the high concentration of ELLs in these schools. Unlike the Foundation Aid formula, it does not actually distribute funds based on the number of English Language learners in a school district. Instead it treats districts with high and low concentrations of ELLs the same. Any average need or poor district with 2.85 percent or more English Language learners gets more funding, but this funding is based on total student enrollment, not based on the number of ELLs. If there were two districts the same size, and one is an average wealth district with 2.85% ELL population and the other is a very poor district with 15% ELL population, then they would both get the same level of funding.
The total school aid in the Republican and IDC plan falls $600 million short of what the Assembly has proposed. The Foundation Aid is also considerably less than what the Assembly has proposed, but the changes the Senate Republicans and IDC make to Foundation Aid are so significant that it cannot really be considered Foundation Aid.