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Budget Office Finds Fair Student Funding Not So Fair

The Independent Budget Office, in a report released on April 10, finds that the Bloomberg-era school allocation formula, known as Fair Student Funding, actually underfunds 94 percent of schools and “has a ways to go” towards creating a readily-understood and transparent formula.

The IBO report says the formula, which gives schools per-student funding weighted for need levels (extra dollars for an English language learner, for example) has more closely tied school funding with student needs. For example, middle school students, who were historically short-changed, now get an amount closer to their actual formula needs. But overall, schools are coming up short, the budget office writes.

“Effective per-capita [per student] funding is below per capita funding under the FSF formula in each year,” according to the report, which means that actual per-student funding in schools is generally below what the DOE’s own formula says they need — “a reflection of both the limited funding available and how available funds were distributed.”

Students funded below what the formula called for last year and at least two more out of the last five years were 1) middle school students below academic standards; 2) elementary and high school ELLs; and 3) high school collaborative team teaching students.

So as a budget strategy to direct money to students with the highest needs, Fair Student Funding doesn’t appear to have worked so well.

The UFT’s issue with Fair Student Funding was its potential effect on a school that had more senior teachers. Waving the banner of equity, the DOE began funding schools for their average teacher salary rather than the system wide average. This amounted to charging schools for the actual cost of salaries at their schools. The idea was to equalize funding for poor and wealthier schools. But the effect was to penalize some schools, forcing them to leave vacancies unfilled, raise class sizes and avoid hiring experienced teachers in order to meet budget.

But a 2007 IBO report found that teacher salaries were not even close to the main cause of inequities in school budgets. The main reason for disparities in spending was the numbers of students per teacher, it found, not teacher salary. That argument is not made in the new report. In fact, the new report perpetuates the idea that teacher salaries cause the inequities in school funding, a myth the IBO previously disproved.

The report is a major contribution on an important issue. If Fair Student Funding isn’t succeeding in creating fairness or sufficient funding, what is it actually accomplishing? Of course, the final irony is that Bloomberg’s insistence on principal empowerment means that when all the formulas have gone to bed, principals spend their budgets however they want, with little oversight of which students are getting extra help.



  • 1 Richard Skibins
    · Apr 12, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    The misnamed “Fair Student Funding” punishes schools with a veteran staff. It has resulted in schools not hiring veteran teachers from the ATR pool. Also, veteran teachers are receiving U-ratings at a disproportionate rate, and are being harassed by supervisors who want to force them out. Such harassment includes comments by principals such as Don’t you think it’s time to retire” and “Do you know how much you are costing me?”

  • 2 phyllis c muray
    · Apr 24, 2013 at 1:46 am

    Equity for All: Myth or RealityBy Phyllis C. Murray In “Beyond No Child Left Behind ” Thomas Sobol states the following: “Jefferson tells us and most of us know, our form of government and ways of life depend upon an educated citizenry. Preparing young people for effective participation in a democratic society is a fundamental purpose of our public schools.” Sobol continues, “Today we are experiencing an influx of “foreign” children, largely from Asia and Central America. How we handle these children – who will soon become a majority in large parts of our country – will determine what their lives will be, and what ours will be in turn. The stakes are high, so the questions abound: how can we best get these children to speak, read, and write English? Who goes to school, with whom? How should schools communicate with non-English-speaking parents? What kinds of tests should immigrant children be required to pass? How can we close the “achievement gap” between these children and those in the majority population? How can we make “Americans” of these children in their own lifetime, while respecting the cultural identity of their families?We need to raise and debate these questions now, or leave the outcomes to blind chance and happenstance. One way or another, our nation will be changed. ” I believe academic excellence must be the goal for all students and educators. Our schools must not be allowed to become battlefields for minorities and other students. Education must be the sole priority. Hence, these standards must be set high, and all students must be held accountable. The reward for achieving academic excellence also must be clear. Furthermore, teachers must be treated as professionals, rewarded as professionals and held accountable to the standards of their profession. They must be allowed and, in fact, encouraged to be involved the decisions that affect their work and the academic performance of their students. We need to do whatever we can to provide the resources all students need. Our goal should be to establish standards the will challenge all students to do their best, and that will help schools to stay focused on their primary mission… the education of our students. If the “preparation of our students for effective participation in a democratic society.” is the goal of public education, no child should be left behind. Nor should the “one-size fits all” test practice become the new mantra for NCLB. Phyllis C. Murray