Can School Aid be Cut Equitably?

The answer, according to an analysis posted today by the Citizens Budget Commission, is “yes”.

In “Unavoidable School Aid Cuts: Do the Least Harm by Targeting,” CBC staffers Elizabeth Lynam and Selma Mustovic argue “limited available funding should be targeted to the neediest schools and pupils”.

Can cutting state aid to education be avoided? Given the state’s projected $7.5 billion deficit, CBC says the answer is “No”.

The problem is that most people don’t know the facts when it comes to state school aid.

  • They don’t know that New York spends more than $52 billion on education –one out of every three tax dollars raised locally and by state taxes.
  • They don’t know that state aid doubled in the past decade.
  • They don’t know that only 37% of the increased spending went to teachers’ salaries. The rest — nearly $5,000 per pupil — went to such things as increased administrative costs, construction costs and fringe benefits.
  • They don’t know that New York’s student-to-teacher ratio is 17% lower than the rest of the country.
  • They don’t know that all that spending has not yielded significant improvements in student test scores.

So while the Governor’s budget proposal would help poor districts and cut state aid to rich districts — many of which have substantial reserve funds, CBC recommends taking an even knife to the problem in order to give greater aid to poor districts.

It would take great political courage to follow this recommendation. Courage is a commodity that’s sorely been lacking in Albany in the past. Will 2010 be any different?

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