By Ariama C. Long
After catching heat for education budget cuts in 2022, Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks have sought to correct their egregious mistakes by proposing improvements to the budgeting formula for the 2023-2024 school year.
The newly workshopped Fair Student Funding (FSF) formula is supposed to increase equity based on the recommendations made by a working group.
The proposals include an additional consideration for students in temporary housing or living in poverty, students with disabilities, English language learners and asylum-seeking students. The working group also suggested that public schools implement a more responsive budget appeals process and focus on increasing transparency. About $45 million in funding is aimed at students in temporary housing. Another $45 million is expected to go to over 300 schools across the city serving the highest concentration of students in need.
Adams vowed to center family voices in policy and programs.
“Thanks to the work of our Fair Student Funding Working Group, we are prioritizing the needs and voices of students who have been long forgotten, and this is only the beginning of turning New York City public schools into a thoughtful institution for all,” said Adams in a statement.
The FSF formula funds a large portion of community district school budgets and is a weighted pupil-funding model, meaning it’s based on the number of students enrolled at each school. School Leadership Team (SLTs) and principals also have some sway over how to spend these funds.
The Department of Education (DOE), Adams, and Banks had placed blame on the flawed FSF formula, dwindling stimulus funds, and projected decreases in school enrollments for the cuts to schools last year. Because of that, angry parents and advocates launched a short legal battle that momentarily delayed the cuts. The courts eventually sided with the city. Banks had said during the scuttle last spring that the city planned on creating a group to reform the funding formula, but the promise was somewhat lost among the controversy.
“These changes, made as a direct result of the thoughtful work of the Fair Student Funding Working Group, are representative of New York City public schools’ commitment to working directly with our communities and putting into place genuine change to support our schools and our kids,” said Banks in a statement. “This was complicated work they took on, and I am so appreciative of the work of the Fair Student Funding Working Group and co-chairs Dia Bryant and Jasmine Gripper and am thrilled to be moving these recommendations forward.”
The working group is led by two co-chairs: Alliance for Quality Education Executive Director Jasmine Gripper, and Ed Trust-New York Executive Director Dia Bryant. The city said that the group spent three months meeting with national experts, conducting community engagement sessions, and considering specific policy improvements for schools. In November 2022, the working group released their report for consideration by Banks.
Speaker Adrienne Adams and Councilmember Rita Joseph, who chairs the education committee, put out a joint statement on the proposed reforms to the FSF formula. They said that the formula “has long been in need of reform” and welcomed the estimated $90 million in allocated support.
“The department has listened to the advocates for our students who participated in the Working Group,” they said. “We are also encouraged by changes to the budget appeal process and commitments to improve transparency around how DOE issues school budgets, so the public and government oversight entities are not left without basic information.”
Many education advocates applauded the formula changes.
Evan Stone, co-founder and co-CEO of Educators for Excellence, said that students in temporary housing and schools with high concentrations of students with additional needs were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is an important shift for the city to be making, because now is the time to ensure that our funding formula sends more funds to serve schools and students that need them most, especially as temporary COVID-19 relief funds expire,” said Stone.
Elizabeth Haela, a public school teacher who was part of the working group, said that she was “extremely encouraged by the city’s decision.”
“I’m to allocate funds to schools with greater needs,” said Haela in a statement. “A student that is in temporary housing might also require special education services, for example, so this funding will ensure that we no longer look at these populations in silos and instead ensure schools can adequately meet the wide-ranging needs of their students.”
The proposed formula changes will go to the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) for review before approval. PEP is a governing body of the city’s public schools that votes on the funding formula and on the estimated budget proposed by the Mayor.
“The city’s commitment today is a positive step, and we encourage the Panel for Educational Policy to vote in favor of these recommendations,” said Stone. “We also encourage the Chancellor, Mayor, and policymakers to consider other recommendations made by the working group, such as increasing the weight for students in poverty and increasing the base foundation amount that each school receives.”
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://bit.ly/amnews1