As pledged by members of the state 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. Each house of the legislature has 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?
Dr. Rick Timbs is executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium, 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.