FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Op-Ed 3/19/12

By Dr. Rick Timbs, SSFC Executive Director

As pledged by members of the legislature redistricting lines were supposed to be created without political consideration. They reneged on the promise.
Two mandate relief committees were supposed to recommend significant mandate relief measures that are strangling school districts. They did not. A veto was promised for politically drawn redistricting lines. It did not occur. Legislators have supported in writing the creation of a fair and equitable distribution of state aid to our school districts. Will they really?

The Executive Budget Proposal did finally allocate a very small sum for equitable distribution that favored high needs school districts after years of neglect.  To continue that worthy initiative every penny of the remaining $250 million of education funds must be reallocated to low wealth schools with the passage of the budget.  Last week each house of the legislature passed a “one-house-bill,” for state aid to school districts. It is feared that the Senate and Assembly have done considerable analysis to recreate the same old scheme for the inequitable distribution of state aid to school districts. 
 
They promised to do better. Unfortunately, a historical concern lingers with regard to promises from the legislature. It would be deceitful to find out after the budget is passed that the Senate and Assembly reverted to the old “shares” system, a political compromise that promotes and exacerbates the existing inequity in state funding for public education. We are deeply concerned advocates for students whose educational opportunities are increasingly diminished because of the continued and intolerable inequitable distribution of state aid to schools.
   
Ronald Reagan advised that we “Trust but Verify” in our relationships with governments.  To eliminate any suspicions and in the interest of transparency and honest representation, legislators must provide to the Superintendent of every school district and the Statewide School Finance Consortium the actual summary spreadsheet of state aid runs that must exist so that the distribution of the aid can be tested against current equity measures. Absent cooperation with this request, everyone would be left with the belief that legislators will be complacent in the inequitable distribution of state aid that denies the children of low wealth communities the opportunity for a “Sound Basic Education’’ guaranteed in the New York State Constitution.
 
It is imperative that we raise this issue with legislative leaders and work to ensure that all $250 million will be distributed in a way that mitigates the damage done to our schools and students in only three years.  Permitting the analysis of the actual summary spreadsheet of the state aid runs by the Statewide School Finance Consortium and its almost 400 school districts would serve as good faith effort to prove that they have embraced the equitable distribution of state aid in support of low wealth communities and children.
 
The struggles school districts face multiply each year. If the legislature will not, or cannot, agree on a more equitable distribution of $250 million, will they ever address the obvious need to overhaul the entire $20 Billion of state aid to education?

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SSFC REPORT: State Aid Formulas and NY Senate members

are shortchanging our schools, children and communities

* Analysis details sharp decline in state support for public school funding since 2007, highlights state Senator performance in SSFC member districts

SSFC Executive Director Dr. Rick Timbs is available to speak with reporters and editors about the report. Contact him at rtimbs@statewideonline.org or call Margaret McCormick at 315-373-8047 to arrange an interview.

CONTACT:
Margaret McCormick: 315-373-8047
Dr. Rick Timbs: rtimbs@statewideonline.org

East Syracuse, NY (December 1, 2011): The Statewide School Finance Consortium (SSFC), a New York coalition representing over half of the state's public school systems, has issued a report that addresses long-standing disparities in state education aid funding, with a focus on the performance of the 20 state Senators who represent the more than 350 school districts that comprise SSFC membership.

The report is divided into two parts.

* Part I is an in-depth examination of state financial support of public school funding since 2007, when the Spitzer administration introduced the new Foundation Aid formula.

* Part II is a performance analysis of the 20 state Senators - 17 Republicans and 3 Democrats - who represent SSFC school districts. The analysis utilizes State Education Department financial aid data to illustrate the impact of funding cuts on per-pupil spending and property tax levy bases in each Senate district, with comparisons to similar communities in other parts of the state.

TO READ THE FULL REPORT, CLICK HERE.

Among the report's conclusions:

With no changes in the state aid formula, an estimated 100 to150 school districts will not have sufficient revenue or cash reserves to sustain themselves and will therefore face the prospect of financial insolvency within the next one to two years.
Under the new Tax Cap law wealthier school districts that are less dependent on state aid will be able to raise more money than less wealthy districts. Attaining the 60% super majority to go above the "tax levy limit" mandated in the new law will likely be unrealistic in these communities, which will force schools to continue an unsustainable process of further cuts to staff and program and use of reserves to stay in operation.
Based on a study of the state's own data, Senators that represent SSFC school districts, regardless of political party affiliation, have appeared to be more influenced by the "Leadership culture" of their house than they are with helping to solve the issue of equitable funding to provide the children in their home communities with the same educational opportunities as children in more affluent communities.
Unfair distribution of state aid IS NOT an "Upstate vs. Downstate" issue. It's an issue ripe for reform. More than 30 Downstate school districts with similar wealth and poverty make-up face the same grim outlook as SSFC member districts.

"At the end of the day, the conclusions we reached in our report cry out for one thing - fairness," said SSFC Executive Director Dr. Rick Timbs. "Is it fair that children in New York will have significantly fewer educational opportunities only because they live in a less wealthy or poor community? Aren't these all our children? Don't they all deserve the same chance?"

The SSFC report was developed in advance of the upcoming state Legislative session and Executive Budget process to serve as a tool to help drive needed reform. The report's focus on the performance of the Senate was based on its particular role in shaping the education aid landscape in the late 1980's that has led to the present crisis for hundreds of New York's public schools.

According to Dr. Timbs, "some Senators that represent SSFC districts - like Senators DeFrancisco, Gallivan and Ritchie, have either introduced or are working with us to develop legislation that addresses our concerns. We deeply appreciate these efforts - but we've reached the point where we must have concrete results. Hundreds of school districts cannot wait any longer."



If you have questions, email us here or call us at (315)-463-1904

The Statewide School Finance Consortium (SSFC) is an organization of nearly 360 New York public school districts whose mission is to bring equity to the distribution of New York State educational aid. SSFC membership is largely comprised of school districts from average and low-wealth communities that receive a disproportionate share of state funding in comparison to high-wealth regions of New York. The reform of the state aid process will help ensure that all of New York's children receive the same educational opportunities regardless of the wealth or location of their community.