Report Education

Can New York Get An A In School Finance Reform?

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January 01, 2005

The State of New York faces a major challenge stemming from a 2003 ruling by the Court of Appeals, the State’s highest court, which found that the more than one million children in New York City’s public schools were not provided with the sound basic education guaranteed to them by the State Constitution. CBC addressed two fundamental questions: Where should the money come from? What changes other than more money are essential to improving educational outcomes?

The report concludes that:

  • The State, rather than local school districts, should be responsible for raising additional funding, and the State should play a larger role than it does now in raising the money already being spent on public schools;
  • If less than $3.2 billion is needed, the State can avoid tax increases by (a) using current public school resources more efficiently and (b) generating non-tax revenues from expanded State-regulated gambling activities;
  • If the remedy requires more than $3.2 billion annually, then taxes will need to be increased. CBC makes five accompanying recommendations.
    • A new statewide system of accountability for schools should be established.
    • The classroom space requirements for a sound basic education should be met through a combination of two measures – redistricting of existing schools and operating existing schools on a year-round schedule.
    • Teachers should be given financial incentives for better performance.
    • Financial incentives should be used to overcome shortages in selected teaching job titles.
    • The managerial discretion of principals should be expanded. In addition to using performance pay to provide incentives for teachers to follow a principal’s leadership, principals’ discretion regarding which teachers may transfer to their schools could be enhanced by allowing principals to select teachers for given posts from among multiple candidates rather than forcing the decision to be made on the basis of seniority.

The research for this report was made possible with generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The printing of the report was supported in part by a contribution by Cheryl Cohen Effron and Blair Effron. The entire effort was significantly underwritten by an anonymous trustee donation.