Report: Impact of Funding Discrepancies on Educational Opportunities in Peekskill & Scarsdale

NEW YORK, NY (March 23, 2018) — The Alliance for Quality Education released a new report analyzing the effect of inequitable school funding on educational opportunities available to students, comparing two adjacent public school districts — one low income and high need, and one wealthy — in Westchester County to illustrate the impact on students. Read the full report here.

The report, titled, The Tale of Two Public School Districts, compares the academic and elective course offerings at Peekskill public schools and Scarsdale public schools.

Peekskill has a higher level of student need resulting from poverty, English language learners and students with disabilities than Scarsdale. The gap, when accounting for need, comes to $9,665 per pupil which translates into a real-life gap between the opportunities that each school is able to offer students, with impacts including the number of Advanced Placement classes offered, electives and sports, and student supports such as guidance counselors and social workers.

The opportunity gap persists because of New York State’s failure to fund its own equitable funding formula, the Foundation Aid formula. The report states, “Peekskill faces a great deal of unmet need because the state has neglected its obligation to fund Foundation Aid. Peekskill is currently owed $14 million of the remaining Foundation Aid that was due by 2011 based on the statewide settlement of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. Scarsdale is not owed any funding.”

Such inequities in school funding across the state disproportionately affect schools like Peekskill, that educate predominantly Black, Brown and low-income students, leaving them unable to offer the same opportunities for students as wealthy districts.

“For far too long New York State has failed to provide New York’s Black, Brown and poor students with adequate educational opportunities” said Maria Bautista, Campaigns Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “Governor Cuomo perpetuates educational racism through education policies that fail to provide enough funding to public schools to fulfill students’ right to a ‘sound, basic education.’ It’s time for the Governor to stop compromising our children’s futures, and fulfill the State’s promise of equity in public schools.”

“Every student has the right to a quality education. My classmates and I at Scarsdale High School want our representatives to see the kinds of opportunities schools can offer their students when they have adequate. We want all students to have the kinds of opportunities our school has been able to offer us, like clubs, classes, and extracurricular activities. We want the best for students, because students are the future,” said Michele Getselevich, Scarsdale student.

“Our district has seen an increase of students who speak English as a second language, and has had an increase in students with special needs and students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. The Peekskill NAACP is calling for the State to release the $14.5 million owed to the Peekskill City School District, and for a full phase-in of Foundation Aid. One of the most glaring problems in this matter is the disproportionality of the disbarment of the funds with regards to school districts of color,” said Martin McDonald, president, NAACP Peekskill.

“As I parent I am appalled, but not surprised, to see the facts laid bare in the latest report on inequality between Peekskill and our wealthier neighbors. Our school district staff and administrators work tirelessly to provide a quality education to my children and all the children in Peekskill, regardless of the challenges they may face in life. Our school district should not have to fight this fight with one arm tied behind our back — we need equitable funding to level the playing field for our students. We need our state senator, Senator Murphy, to fight for us to obtain the funding owed to us by New York State. He has witnessed first hand the struggles and triumphs of our schools, and he knows that our children are worth every cent as much as any other child in Westchester,” said Branwen MacDonald, parent leader.

The report’s release comes as local parents joined AQE and the Peekskill NAACP Friday for a press conference outside Senator Terrence Murphy’s district office, calling on Senator Murphy and his colleagues to fight for equitable school funding in the enacted state budget this year. The parents delivered hundreds of postcards to the Senator that were collected from across the district, demanding education justice for public schools and the full funding of the Foundation Aid formula.

Read the full report here.