ALBANY — In the opening salvo of what promises to be a heated battle this year over education reform, a new report says funding inequities between poor and rich school districts across the state has reached record levels under Gov. Cuomo – and has soared 43% in New York City.
Overall, schools in poorer districts spent $8,733 per pupil less in 2012 than those from wealthier ones, an inequity that grew by nearly 9% from before Cuomo took office in 2011, according to the study by a coalition of education advocacy groups opposing many of the reforms pushed by Cuomo.
While the 100 wealthiest districts spent on average more than $28,000 in state and local funding per kid in 2012, the 100 poorest districts in the state spent closer to $20,000 per student, the report found.
The report, obtained by the Daily News, is set to be released Monday. The coalition includes the Alliance for Quality Education, which is backed by the powerful teachers unions, the Public Policy and Education Fund of New York, Opportunity Action, and National Opportunity to Learn.
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said that the state provides three times as much per pupil in high-need districts than it does in low-need ones.
State education aid per pupil actually went up 9.3% during Cuomo’s first term, with a significantly higher percentage going to poorer districts, he said.
“It’s ludicrous that some special interests are seeking to create a false choice between closing the achievement gap between rich and poor districts and the Governor’s efforts to protect taxpayers, while also injecting accountability and innovation into the system,” Azzopardi said.
Cuomo has vowed to break what he called the public school “monopoly” with a series of reforms that include more charter schools, tougher teacher evaluation standards, and a continuation of his cap on property tax increases.
But the coalition argues that the real problem facing public education is the funding discrepancies between wealthy and poor school districts.
The inequity gaps were made worse by nearly $400 per pupil, the report says, after Cuomo won a 2% cap on local property tax increases that made it more difficult for needy districts to raise needed money, the report says.
“When Governor Cuomo repeatedly says that New York State is one of the top spending states in the country, he is ignoring the fact that his policies have led to record setting inequality,” the report says.
The inequality has made it tougher to attack poor education results in high-need districts, where graduation rates dramatically lag behind those in richer districts, the report says.
The answer, it says, is more money for things like pre-kindergarten, smaller classrooms, art programs and extra help for English language learners. The data in the report was compiled before New York City enacted universal pre-K.
The report’s release, nine days before Cuomo is set to deliver his State of the State address, is designed to launch a huge lobbying effort against many of the changes Cuomo is seeking.
While Cuomo in his inaugural address earlier this month acknowledged the education system is different for those in poor districts than rich ones, he has long argued that simply throwing money at the problem hasn’t improved results.