New Rockefeller Institute Report Finds Funding Disparities Between Wealthy and Poor Schools Within New York’s Big 5 Districts

Albany, NY — An analysis by the Rockefeller Institute of Government of newly available data found uneven school-level funding within New York State’s Big 5 school districts. The report illustrates multiple examples of funding inequities that exist between the wealthiest and highest-poverty schools within a district. This year, the report provides for the first time an understanding of how education aid flows not only among school districts, but among schools within districts. 

“Often the focus has been on the overall amount of education aid that goes to school districts, but given access to critical new school-level spending data, we see a different problem: money is not evenly flowing to the schools that need it the most within the districts,” said report author and Rockefeller Institute President Jim Malatras. “Our continuing analysis will provide policymakers the tools to ensure that education aid is distributed in a way that benefits every student equitably.”
 
The report moves beyond the standard district-level analyses that underpin the state’s education aid formulas to help illuminate why some school districts receive far more than the national or state average in per-pupil spending, yet still have a high number of low-performing schools. It builds on a previous Rockefeller Institute report, Does Education Aid Flow to the Schools that Need It the Most?, released in February.
 
The analysis is based on new data made available through New York State’s recently adopted school transparency reporting requirements, which require districts to report school-level data to the Division of the Budget and State Education Department beginning in 2018 if they have four or more schools and receive more than 50 percent of their total revenue from state aid, or are located in a city of more than a million people — a total of 76 school districts this year.
 
The available data for the Big 5 districts — Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers — revealed the following:

  • Buffalo City School District: More than three-quarters of the schools with the highest poverty have funding below the district-wide average. These schools enroll 89 percent of all students in the highest-poverty schools.
  • New York City School District: Nearly one-fifth of the poorest schools have per-pupil funding below the district-wide average. These schools enroll 25 percent of all students in the highest-poverty schools.
  • Rochester City School District: Roughly half of the highest-poverty schools are funded below the district-wide average. These schools enroll 44 percent of all students in the highest-poverty schools.
  • Syracuse City School District: Nearly a fifth is funded below the district-wide average. The school enrolls 15 percent of all students in the highest-poverty schools.
  • Yonkers City School District: More than half of the highest-poverty schools in the district are funded below the district-wide average. These schools enroll 50 percent of all students in the highest-poverty schools.

Further, using the current state Foundation Aid formula’s weightings for poverty, English language learners, and students with disabilities, the data suggest that the districts are not allocating their state and local education aid in the most equitable fashion:

  • Buffalo City School District: The highest-poverty schools get 26 percent less per pupil on average than the district’s wealthiest schools.
  • New York City School District: The highest-poverty schools get 12 percent less per pupil on average than the district’s wealthiest schools.
  • Rochester City School District: The highest-poverty schools get 2 percent less per pupil on average than the district’s wealthiest schools.
  • Syracuse City School District: The highest-poverty schools get 12 percent less per pupil on average than the district’s wealthiest schools.
  • Yonkers City School District: The highest-poverty schools get 14 percent less per pupil on average than the district’s wealthiest schools.

This is the first in a series of reports examining school-level spending data by the Rockefeller Institute of Government. 
 
Read the report.

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