(Courtesy of Yahoo News)
NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York state’s budget cuts are taking a financial toll on poor schools that is more than three times the hit felt by the wealthiest districts, a non-profit education group said in report on Tuesday.
The cuts are costing poor schools $843 per pupil, compared with a hit of $269 in the wealthiest districts, the Alliance for Quality Education said in its report, as it blamed Governor Andrew Cuomo for the unequal impact.
Like many states, New York uses complicated formulas to dole out school aid.
To help close a $10 billion budget gap, Cuomo, a Democrat, cut $1.3 billion of school aid in the current budget.
The governor’s decision to use a sliding scale of percentage reductions for rich and poor districts failed to protect the poorest ones from bearing the brunt of the cuts, Billy Easton, executive director of the Albany-based Alliance for Quality Education, told Reuters in a phone interview.
“Billy Easton is the paid lobbyist for a group funded by the teacher’s union; what do you expect him to say?” a spokesman for Cuomo said by e-mail.
A spokesman for the Division of Budget had no comment.
The group’s report, which looked at New York City separately to avoid skewing the results, surveyed the state’s 684 school districts. Except for New York City, schools rely mostly on property taxes and state aid for funding, a practice that has resulted in sharp differences in spending.
According to a study by the Citizens Budget Commission, a fiscal watchdog, last March, the wealthiest school districts this year will spend an average of $30,192 per pupil — almost twice the median amount for the entire state.
Lacking the cushion of a rich tax base, poorer schools have been forced to take harsh measures, according to the Alliance for Quality Education.
“Expanding class sizes and cutting arts, music, summer school, and advance placement classes, and in some districts cutting kindergarten or pre-kindergarten to half-day, will deny some students the opportunity to get ready for college and the job market,” Easton said in a statement.
New York, along with several other states, has fought lengthy court battles over whether its school funding was so unequal that poor students were deprived of an adequate education.
The New Jersey Education Law Center is absorbing the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which successfully sued New York state, winning hundreds of millions of dollars for poor schools.
Easton said he hoped the New Jersey Education Law Center will decide by the end of the year to sue New York state to force it to give poor schools more money.
A spokesman for the New Jersey group could not be reached immediately for comment.