13 Jun

Map of the Week: Racial Inequity in New York’s School Funding


By Joy Ndamukunda


The state of New York’s own equitable funding formula exposes that in 2018, it owed schools $4.2 billion in aid, of which 74% belongs to students of color. In order to provide the lowest-wealth districts with the necessary levels of state aid, the Foundation Aid formula establishes a base per-pupil cost for all students. The Foundation Aid formula in New York has not been updated for 17 years, leading to the issues of inequity occurring now. New York State is home to the most segregated schools in the country. In terms of equitable school funding, New York ranks 49th out of the 50 states in the United States. As seen on the 2018 map, districts in New York that are owed aid have a large percentage of black and brown students. Districts that are owed little to no aid either have a small percentage of black and brown students or none. 

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has not updated the list of successful districts since 2012, despite the fact that the Foundation Aid statute mandates the foundation or base amount to be altered every three years by updating the list of “successful” districts and their average spending levels. This model is called the Successful School Districts (SSD) Costing Out model and is part of how foundation aid is derived.

In the interim, New York started using evaluations that were more in line with the state’s Common Core curriculum and established new standards that matched them. The foundation cost produced by the SSD approach does not correlate to the current benchmarks for which school districts are held responsible, as NYSED is not utilizing these more recent evaluations to determine whether districts are considered “successful.” 

The Foundation Aid formula is found by accounting for the average cost of a successful school, the regional cost index, and the needs of students minus the expected local contribution determined by local income and property wealth. It is uncertain if the subgroup of districts that met 2012 standards for success would meet current standards as well, and if so, whether their average expenditure levels fairly represent the basic cost of educating all students. Regardless, though out-of-date, the foundation aid model reveals the inequitable funding of districts with large percentages of students of color. This issue is not specific to only New York, this occurs all across the United States. This is modern-day racial segregation and inequity.


“Separate & Unequal” Education in the New York State Budget: The Kerner Commission 50 Years Later

Improving the Foundation Aid Formula in New York State