Foundation Aid Formula Discussion Needs To Happen

A state facing a $4.1 billion gap between existing spending and projected revenues got a bit of bad news last week.

A New York appeals court ruled that the so-called Small Cities school funding lawsuit, which involves Jamestown and seven other cities, will go back to state Supreme Court with directions to determine on a case-by-case basis if the involved school districts are underfunded. It’s hard to believe that a state which spends more than $22,000 per pupil in state funding isn’t spending enough, but that is the case for some high-needs, urban schools like Jamestown. The appeals court ruling should reinforce to state legislators the need to come up with a solution to this problem that doesn’t involve a court mandate that could further implode the state’s wobbly finances.

New York may not need to spend billions of dollars more each year on education, but it certainly needs to spend its money differently than it has in the past. Legislation in the state Senate introduced by Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, and co-sponsored by state Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, would do just that.

Senate Bill 2300, relates to the to the computation of foundation aid and addition of credit recovery aid for the eight small cities that are suing the state and would make several changes to the way qualifying school districts’ state aid is formulated to help pay for academic intervention services, dropout prevention, response to intervention services, incarcerated youth services, parent involvement programs, extended day and extended year programs. Money would be phased in over four years.

This is the sort of action Jamestown has needed for years, and kudos to Young for co-sponsoring it in the Senate. The legislation is currently Senate’s Education Committee. We hope it receives a thorough airing during the next state legislative session.

It’s hard to argue the small city districts haven’t been underfunded for years. The converse of that statement is that some districts are receiving state money they may be able to raise locally. Increasing funding to the eight small city districts will cost more money, something New York may not be in a position to give. If the state aid formula is changed to help small city school districts, then some districts with more ability to fund themselves with local tax dollars will have to receive less state aid. That discussion won’t be popular — but it needs to happen.


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