The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) has today released an analysis (press release, h/t Politics on the Hudson) showing that the wealthiest 10 percent of our state’s school districts spend 80 percent more on teaching students than do the poorest 10 percent, “a funding inequity that is aggravated by the state’s property tax cap and widens the unacceptable achievement gap.”
The NYSUT analysis found that the top 10 percent spent an average of $35,690, compared to $19,823 for the poorest 10 percent last year, although students in poorer communities tend to have much greater educational needs (Much more detail in the press release.)
NYSUT is challenging the tax cap in New York state Supreme Court; that case is set to be heard on Dec. 12. Here’s more on what NYSUT had to say about the tax cap and its impact on students:
“The way New York funds public education is already grossly inequitable, denying the poorest students with the greatest needs the rich array of programs and services they need for success – services more affluent students get every single day,” said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. “What the tax cap does, in essence, is to take this grotesque educational inequality and accelerate it even more.”
Iannuzzi said funding inequality and the effects of poverty have a devastating impact on student achievement and graduation rates. He noted that roughly half of New York’s 2.7 million schoolchildren are so poor they qualify for a free- or reduced-priced lunch. New York City has an estimated 50,000 homeless students, and many more homeless youngsters populate shelters and abandoned structures in small cities, the suburbs and rural communities across the state as well.
“Students who are furthest from reaching the state’s higher standards and who are at the greatest risk of dropping out are very often from communities of color or families that live in poverty,” Iannuzzi said. “Instead of investing more to help students in high-needs communities succeed, New York has done the opposite, creating a tax structure that widens the wealth gap and enacting an undemocratic tax cap that is worsening the achievement gap by making it impossible for poor school districts to ever catch up.”
NYSUT’s analysis, submitted as part of the union’s lawsuit seeking to have the tax cap declared unconstitutional, also compares student proficiency rates and per-pupil spending. In the highest-spending 10 percent of school districts, 49 percent of students reached proficiency targets on last April’s English language arts test, while 45 percent were labeled proficient in math. Among the poorest 10 percent, however, just 21 percent reached proficiency in English language arts and 18 percent in math.