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Testimony: Civil Rights Impact of Education Funding in New York


In 2007, the New York Legislature enacted the Foundation Aid formula to ensure all schools would have all the resources they needed to provide a sound basic education for all of New York’s students. Despite that action, New York has seen ongoing racial and income disparities in education.

Although Foundation Aid formula is one of the most progressive in the country in terms of its aspirations for equitably distributing educational resources, it is underfunded, and because wealthy local districts can add funding from their local property tax base, the actual revenue distribution is regressive. As a result, high-need school districts serving students of color and students from low-income families do not have the resources they need.

As Chief Justice Warren noted in the Brown opinion, education “is the very foundation of good citizenship,” and the opportunity to access education, “where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.
⁠—Testimony of Peter Cookson

While there have long been debates over whether school spending impacts student academic outcomes, newly available data sets and methodologically sophisticated statistical approaches show that money spent well has a direct positive impact on student outcomes and success.

Moreover, inequalities in access to qualified teachers are related to lower levels of funding, and research makes it clear that quality teaching is one of the most important ingredients for ensuring every student receives a sound basic education.

Other states have also recognized the role of school funding in advancing educational excellence and equity for all students, including students of color; among those states is New Jersey. After 3 decades of litigation regarding deeply inequitable funding, the state finally made a major investment in “parity” for low-wealth, high-minority districts beginning in 1996–97. By 2007, New Jersey had sharply increased its standing on reading and mathematics assessments nationally—ranking in the top five states in all subject areas and grade levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It was also one of four states that made the most progress in closing achievement gaps between White, Black, and Hispanic students over the previous 4 years in both 4th and 8th grade reading and mathematics.