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NY Post Editorial Opposing Full Funding Illustrates Conundrum of Achieving Equity

December 18, 2019

When I initially read the headline of the NY Daily News’ editorial I was appalled! Titled “The Insane, Dishonest Drive for a “Full Funding”  Boost to State Aid“, the article enumerated all of the reasons such an idea was wrongheaded. Unfortunately the logic used to defend less than full funding was flawed…. until the closing point.

First and foremost, the editorial board asserted:

It is up to the governor and the Legislature to decide state spending, period full stop. The state Constitution and the entire American system of government doesn’t let even New York’s highest court horn in. 

Clearly the editors overlooked the role of the courts when laws fly in the face of the constitution. If the courts had not “horned in” in 1954 school segregation would still be the law of the land and the constitutional rights of minority students would be abrogated.

Continuing on the path of illogic, the editors write

…then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer used the CFE rulings as an excuse to budget even more school aid starting in 2007. Yet lawmakers can’t bind future lawmakers, and the 2008 fiscal crisis forced some cuts. Then Cuomo in 2011, his first year in office, junked the still-“scheduled” Spitzer hikes.

Court orders dealing with funding equity issues are not “an excuse” to budget more school funding but they DO bind legislators to follow through with adjustments to funding formulas even if that flow is diminished due to recessions.

But in the end, the editorial board DID make one valid point:

Is the aid distributed fairly? Probably not: Long Island districts, for example, get vastly more than most analysts think they should — because “swing” districts in Nassau and Suffolk have long decided control of the state Senate. For years, Republican senators used to bring home the school bacon; now that Democrats have swept most of those seats, they’re doing the same thing.

That’s the sausage factory that is lawmaking in a democracy.

And therein lies the problem— and the conundrum of equitable funding: it is impossible to redistribute funds equitably without provide more funding to all school districts… and so governors like Eliot Spitzer are forced to raise spending across the board for education in order to provide MORE funds for property poor districts. And the editorial board should realize that this is not a new problem. Lyndon Johnson faced this when he instituted Title One funding. Instead of providing federal funds exclusively to districts who served predominantly poor children, Congress devised a system where the money followed the child, which meant that districts with ANY needy children received SOME federal money. In this way, wealthy suburban districts received a marginal sum of federal dollars, dollars that arguably could have been earmarked to help neighboring districts that served a larger percentage of needy families. Was this aid distributed fairly? Probably not… but it DID help mitigate the inability of property poor districts to provide adequate funding to children raised in poverty.

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