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Report: NY Schools 5th Worst in U.S. in School Spending Fairness

GRAPHIC: In New York, a 27 percent difference in graduation rates exists between the wealthiest and poorest school districts (although per-pupil spending is only one of a number of contributing factors). Advocates are rallying to call for restoring equitable public school funding. Graphic courtesy AQE.
GRAPHIC: In New York, a 27 percent difference in graduation rates exists between the wealthiest and poorest school districts (although per-pupil spending is only one of a number of contributing factors). Advocates are rallying to call for restoring equitable public school funding. Graphic courtesy AQE.
March 5, 2013

ALBANY, N.Y. - New York State ranks fifth in the nation with regard to the gap between rich and poor school districts,
based on spending per pupil. That's the finding in a new report prepared by school reform advocates who will put on a parade and a rally in Albany today.

According to the report from the Alliance for Quality Education, the gap between spending from the state's wealthiest to poorest school districts is $8600 per pupil. That gap, and the corresponding lack of programs and course offerings at the poorer end, leads to a graduation gap as well, the report says.

With twin sons ready to enter pre-kindergarten this fall, Angelica Rivera of West Buffalo said she can see what's in store.

"They've cut a lot of these after-school programs, they've cut a lot of these art programs, things that I know that my kids will benefit from," she said.

Rivera will be speaking this afternoon at a rally addressing the funding gap, preceded by a parade featuring high school marching bands and concerned advocates calling for a restoration of funding cuts in the pending budget.

Rivera, who is 23, said she's motivated to speak to lawmakers in Albany because she came out of a Buffalo school system that has seen the effects of inequitable funding.

"I remember them closing down schools, having extra kids in the class," she recalled. "So I know what it was back then. And being a product of those cuts, I just know how it can be devastating for my kids."

This year the Executive Budget proposes $321 million in restorations and $203 million in Fiscal Stabilization Funds for a total of $524 million.

Not enough, according to Billy Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education.

"Next week we'll see the two houses of the Legislature put out their proposed budget, and so we'll know right then whether or not they've been listening to what people are saying," Easton said. "But people are fed up. Four years in a row so far of classroom cuts have been damaging, and we can't take another."

He noted there's a 27 percent difference in graduation rates between the wealthiest and poorest school districts, although per-pupil spending is only one of a number of contributing factors.

The superintendent of the City School District of Albany, Dr. Marguerita Vanden Wyngaard, will join the rally. She said preparing kids for college is paramount in an age where a high school diploma won't lead to a job with a living wage.

"I went to public school. Most of my friends went to public school. It's the way in which we're going to educate most of our populace," she said. "So to commit to a higher level of education means we have to commit to a better and more stable level of funding."


Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY