School-aid formula changes recommended

ALBANY – The state Board of Regents on Monday recommended a series of changes to the antiquated aid formula that distributes a nation-high $24 billion a year to New York schools.

The board, which sets education policies in New York, was set to discuss the recommendations Monday afternoon for the state Legislature to consider next year.

The changes center largely on how the state calculates a school district's poverty level, and the Board of Regents urged to update the data used to determine a district's wealth.

The recommendations come just weeks after the USA Today Network’s Albany Bureau detailed a number of problems with New York's school-aid formula.

For example, the formula, first put in place in 2007, relies on poverty data from the 2000 Census, as well as other information that is years old, the bureau's review found.

The Board of Regents recommended using more up-to-date statistics, as well as changing how students who receive free lunch are calculated to determine a district's poverty rate.

The board posted the recommendations on Friday, then quietly removed them on Monday, saying they would re-posted later in the day to explain that they were merely recommendations and not actual changes that would need legislative approval.

How the school-aid formula is determined is critical: The aid is sent out based on a community’s economy, ability to tax and need.

But lawmakers fight over aid their local schools, whether they are rich or poor, which skews the formula, the bureau's report found.

School groups praised the Board of Regents for proposing changes.

"Achieving state aid funding that is both equitable and adequate is of immediate and critical need for public schools in all parts of the state," said Rick Timbs, executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium.

Timbs said the school-aid formula is in desperate need of updating.

The state Legislature returns to the Capitol in January, and the 2017-18 state budget is due by April 1.
"Clearly the Foundation Aid formula is in significant need of revision and must have reliable and valid metrics to work appropriately," Timbs said.


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