Report: New York racially discriminates against poor students

Education

ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Last week, the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released, “Education Equity in New York: A Forgotten Dream.” The report makes the case that racial discrimination in school funding represents a serious, ongoing problem in the Empire State.

The ugly truth about New York revealed in this report shows that Black children in our state are being denied access to a high-quality education.

Alliance for Quality Education Executive Director Jasmine Gripper

According to the report, although New York spends disproportionately on poorer districts, average spending per student in those districts represents only two-thirds of spending per student in wealthy districts.

In other words, overall, the state spends more to fund needier schools, but less on needier individuals. Statistically, those needier pupils are usually black and latinx.

Substantially increasing funding to high-need districts benefits not just the deprived students, but all of society and its taxpayers, in the ultimate effects of a more educated citizenry and reduced spending on social safety-net programs and the criminal justice system.

Education Equity in New York: A Forgotten Dream

The State Constitution names the right to “a sound basic education” to all New Yorker children.

To meet that standard, case law in the state requires providing “basic literacy, calculating, and verbal skills” such that children can responsibly vote or serve on a jury.

According to the report, the state falls short of the standard: “New York State is discriminating against poor students and students of color by failing to provide high-need school districts with sufficient resources to make up for the spending gap between high tax base districts and low tax base districts.”

The Committee recommends 10 ways for the Civil Rights Commission to address the issues in New York:

  1. Issue a finding that the state is discriminating against poor and nonwhite students by not closing the spending gap between rich and poor districts.
  2. Investigate the Schenectady claim arguing that the funding system is discriminatory under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
  3. Tell the legislature to pass a budget in the current legislative session to fully fund Foundation Aid, which would increase funding per pupil in high-need districts to the level of funding per pupil in high-income districts.
  4. Tell the legislature to fairly revise the Foundation Aid formula based on a transparent, independent, and in-depth review.
  5. Eliminate the property tax cap.
  6. Tell Congress to amend Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to provide for lawsuits based on unequal implementation or regulations.
  7. Tell the legislature to pass a law to provide for lawsuits based on the uneven distribution of educational resources.
  8. Tell Gov. Cuomo and the legislature to create a blue-ribbon commission to explore alternative funding structures and reduce segregation.
  9. Tell the legislature to amend the State Constitution to require that funding meets or exceeds the cap of per pupil spending in the richer districts, as adjusted for student needs and local capacity.
  10. Tell the Department of Education to make public student-level data on revenues, expenses, and performance outcomes.

The Committee based the report on research, public information, and written submissions and testimony from academics, administrators, government officials, and other experts in education.

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