In an attempt to get more funding into the poorer school districts and reduce funding for the wealthier districts, Governor Eliot Spitzer replaced the very rigid, long-standing formula for funding of the New York schools. The old formula gave the same per student funding to all New York schools districts without regard to needs or demographic/economic differences. Spitzer convinced Senate Republicans in wealthier districts, such as Long Island, to vote for his final budget by including special funding add-ons for only this year. The funding add-ons guaranteed that New York schools in the wealthier districts would receive similar funding as last year, though they are not guaranteed beyond this year.
A multitude of mathematical computations were required for this year’s funding formula, which gave a distribution of $1.76 million. Overall, it appears to be similar to last year’s distribution; however, upon a closer look, a disparity occurred between at least two New York schools districts that creates the exact opposite effect desired by the Governor.
Shelter Island school district in Suffolk County serves a resort town between the forks of Long Island. It has only one school with a New York schools student enrollment of 270 and is as close to being a private school as you can get and still be public. The area, itself, has higher local taxes than many New York schools districts, which means more funding for its school. With a higher median household income for its 2,000 plus residents and a low poverty rate, more funding from the New York schools can be used for programs that are a luxury in other New York schools.
With the new funding formula for the New York schools this year, Shelter Island almost doubled its funding over last year with a 90.5 percent increase — compared to a statewide average increase of ten percent. By far, it was the biggest winner under this year’s funding formula. Last year, this New York schools district lost ten students to the CDCH Charter School in East Hampton. The funding add-ons gave Shelter Island additional funding to compensate for this loss of students (and per student funding). They will receive a total of $775,000 in funding, compared to last year’s $406,000. School board member Barbara Warren said the board is waiting for confirmation of the amount to ensure it is correct.
In contrast to Shelter Island, Germantown is a rural area in Columbia County across the river from Catskill. Like Shelter Island, Germantown has about 2,000 residents and only one school serving the entire district. An enrollment of 700 students, grades kindergarten through 12, are all in one building. The Germantown district is much poorer than Shelter Island with needs for funding to cover programs to aid its low-income students.
Germantown, a New York schools district that must count every penny of state funding it receives, will get an increase of only 0.6 percent this year. This is clearly an inequitable increase, compared to the wealthier Shelter Island funding amount. The only reason Superintendent Patrick Gabriel can find for the little funding increase is in the Public Excess Cost category, which covers the costs of students with disabilities. Though they did receive $700,000 in capital building funds, Germantown is clearly going to have to stretch every penny next school year.
Patricia Hawke is an expert researcher and writer on real estate topics such as economics, credit improvement tips, home selling advice and home buying preparations and education for relocating families. For more information please New York Schools