Report: New York has increased education spending, still needs accountability

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By Steve Bittenbender

A study by a nonpartisan watchdog group released Monday found that education spending has risen substantially in New York in recent years and that the state still needs a comprehensive system to review performance and achievement.

The Citizens Budget Commission found that public schools will receive $34.4 billion in aid for the current school year, representing a 6.7% increase from last year. The report indicated that $3.1 billion, roughly 9% of that funding, is going to more than 175 districts with enough local and federal funding to meet the state-required “Sound Basic Education” requirements.

Beyond that, $10.5 billion in funding goes to districts that allow them to exceed SBE guidelines.

The report read in part, “Given its current fiscal stress and high taxes, the State should stop increasing aid to wealthy districts that fund an SBE through local revenue and regular federal aid; consider freezing aid to better-off districts which already receive State aid in excess of the amount needed for an SBE; and reform both Foundation Aid and many of the expense-based aids to direct more of the funds to high-need districts.”

While school funding continues to rise, the number of students is in a period of decline. Even when discounting aid from COVID measures, the combined local, state and federal per-student funding of $32,757 is 7.4% higher than last year.

The study also shows that per-student spending in New York has outpaced the national average. In 2007, New York’s spending was nearly two-thirds higher than the national average. In 2020, New York’s spending was 90% higher than the national average.

Despite that amount of funding, the CBC called out the state for not having “adequate systems to drive and measure performance and hold school districts accountable for accelerating achievement, reversing learning loss, and narrowing disparities.”

That may soon change. Also, on Monday, the New York State Education Department announced the U.S. Department of Education approved its plan to resume a federally mandated accountability system for the current school year based on last year’s results.

According to NYSED’s release, the plan will take into consideration how the pandemic has affected educational attainment.

“The plan approved by USDE lays the groundwork for systemic changes to our state’s accountability plan to make it more responsive to our parents and communities while meeting the needs of all New York State students,” Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr., said in a statement. “Our accountability system builds on our work to improve academic achievement, provide equitable support systems, and enhance customer service.”

The plan is available for review online, and public comments on it will be accepted through Dec. 19.

(Steve Bittenbender writes for the Center Square)

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