By Alex Zimmerman, Chalkbeat New York
Nearly three-quarters of New York City public schools will see bigger budgets this fall.
For the first time, all schools will receive the entire allotment of money they’re owed under the city’s own funding formula, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials announced Monday.
The move, expected to cost $600 million a year, will infuse more cash into the operating budgets of 1,164 schools that have been receiving less than what they’re owed under the city’s formula known as “fair student funding.” The additional funding comes on the heels of multi-billion dollar investments in education from the state and federal governments — including a nearly 13% boost in state funding for New York City schools.
“Now, because of extraordinary actions that have been taken at the federal level and the state level, we finally have the opportunity to right this wrong,” de Blasio said.
Schools will be able spend the money on everything from classroom materials to services for students with disabilities, officials said.
The city adopted the fair student funding formula in 2007 as a way to send more money to high-needs schools. Instead of divvying up money based on teacher salaries, the new formula determined that schools should get extra money based on their students’ needs: Students who are poor, struggling academically, have a disability, or learning English as a new language bring their schools additional dollars. The formula also provides extra money to some selective schools in the city on the grounds that their students might require additional resources as well.
But the vast majority of city schools never saw their full allotment of funding under the city’s formula.
City officials blamed the state for failing to fully fund schools. The state funding formula, known as Foundation Aid — resulting from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit settled in 2006 — sends extra money to high-needs districts including New York City. The state never met its full obligation under the Foundation Aid formula.
Some schools ended up receiving 100% or more of what they were owed, while most received less. The de Blasio administration has made incremental investments in the city’s funding formula, including by prioritizing the lowest-performing schools in the mayor’s now-defunct turnaround program. Schools were previously guaranteed to receive at least 90% of their funding.
Principals have said in the past that until the city reached its goal of fully funding schools under its own formula, the neediest schools would struggle to afford crucial services, such as additional academic programs or after-school classes.
Thanks to a boost from federal relief funding and tax increases, the latest state budget commits to fully funding Foundation Aid over the next three years, with an initial funding increase this year. That infusion, paired with additional money from the coronavirus relief package, have significantly boosted funding for the city’s schools.
Still, de Blasio said he doesn’t believe that “there is such a thing” as enough funding for schools, and the city would need to ensure that the funding continues even as a chunk of the new money comes from a relief package specifically tied to the pandemic.
“We have to create something that is sustainable after the next few years,” de Blasio said.
Reema Amin contributed
Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.