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July 13, 2004

Study: Hikes in school aid have not improved New York City schools
Any increase in aid should be contingent on 'structural and managerial reforms,' report concludes

The state should mandate changes in the New York City teachers' contract before increasing state aid to city schools, a new study from the Manhattan Institute concludes.

In fact, the study said, increasing funding of city schools without structural and managerial reforms will prevent any improvement in education for youngsters not now receiving what New York's highest court has said they are constitutionally entitled to: a "sound basic education."

The study, "No Strings Attached? Ensuring that CFE Funds Are Spent Effectively," was released in Albany July 13 by its author, Ray Domanico, a senior education advisor for the Industrial Areas Foundation of Metro New York, a network of community organizers who work with parents of public-school students on issues related to public-school improvement.

The study showed that:

  • Total revenues for public education in New York State nearly tripled betweeen 1982-83 and 2001-02, and the state's share of school funding grew even faster in New York City than elsewhere. Total public-school spending in New York City increased from $3.8 billion to $11.3 billion, bringing per-pupil spending up from $4,165 to $10,842.

  • This funding increased staff size and salaries, but it failed to improve city schools according to key student measurements, the study showed. For example, barely half of city high-school students graduate on time, and the percentage of students earning a Regents Diploma actually fell from 36 percent in 1982-83 to 32 percent in 2001-02. And the number of city students attending failing schools increased dramatically.

  • Contractual restrictions and budget-allocation policies in the city's school system help ensure that the least experienced and lowest-paid teachers are assigned to high-poverty and poorly performing schools, and the city is not allowed to offer pay incentives for teachers in needed subject areas.

The authors of the study recommend that the state create a special Sound Basic Education (SBE) fund in the state budget, targeted first at New York City schools - and then stipulate that no aid will be released from the fund until New York City teachers and administrators agree to more flexible staff assignment and compensation policies, including pay incentives to attract better teachers to students who need them the most.

The study was prompted by a ruling a year ago by the state's highest court that New York City is not adequately teaching its schoolchildren, and that the city and state must do more to ensure a "sound basic education" for those students.

The full report is available at www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cr_42.htm.