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Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Tale Of Two School Districts

Read the opening lines of  A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens (below) - and then examine the statistical chart supplied by the The Statewide School Finance Consortium (An Alliance for the Reform of Public School Funding in New York State). The figures demonstrate the significant disparity between two school districts that are nearly identical in enrollment and in socio-economic status as measured by the percentage of learners receiving free or reduced lunches. The data reveals the impact of the combined wealth ratio of a district and how it influences the distribution of state aid. It also shows the inequity of the state aid to school districts.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities English novelist (1812 - 1870)
                            Green Island    Colton-Pierrepont
                                          (St. Lawrence County)

2010/11 Enrollment          316                        317

2010/11 Budget          $6,886,747             $9,225,000

2011/12 State Aid Cut   $566,415                $493,663

*Combined Wealth Ratio      0.62*                      1.29*

**Free/Reduced Lunch Rate   49%**                 50%**

State Aid Cut % of Budget      8.2%                    5.4%

State Aid Cuts Per Student   $1,792                 $1,557

Narrative: Two school districts separated by only one learner and $2,338,253 dollars! That's how much LESS our annual operating budget is at Green Island compared to Colton-Pierrepont. That's $235 dollars LESS per learner. Here's a quote from Governor Cuomo's press conference today:
Both the State Senate and Assembly have proposed restoring between $260 million to $467 million to schools, but the governor said he will only negotiate for much smaller budget restorations.
"This state government is going to take a 10 percent reduction. Ten percent reduction, and we're asking the schools to take a 2.7 percent cut," said Cuomo. "'Well they're gonna hurt the children.' Manage the school system, reduce the waste, the fraud, the abuse. 'Well, we don't have any.' I don't believe it."

I am a Democrat, so I'm not bashing a member of a political rival - but I have to say:

Governor Cuomo - I wish we only received a 2.7% reduction in our budget at Green Island instead of an 8.2% cut! In fact, the $556,415 reduction in state aid only represents an 8.2% decrease in our total budget. When you compare how much state aid we received this year against how much state aid we are scheduled to receive next year it's nearly a 20% reduction in overall state aid. Where is the waste, the fraud, and the abuse in our budget when our budget is $2,338,253 LESS than a comparable district that has only one more child in their district? Are our children and their future, their hopes, and their dreams worth any less than those in other districts? Where is the equality in that comparison? More importantly, where is the equity?

* = The Combined Wealth Ratio (CWR) is a measure of relative wealth, indexing each district against the statewide average on a combination of two factors, property wealth per pupil (per assessed value of properties in the district) and income wealth per pupil (as measured by the collective incomes of residents in the district). The average rating in the state is 1.0. This means that Green Island's wealth ratio is well below the state average and just under half of what the wealth ratio is in Colton-Pierrepont.

** = Free and Reduced lunch rate, provided by the Nutrition Consortium of New York State.
Income Eligibility Guidelines: 2010-2011

Free Lunch Qualifications
Family  Size Monthly  Yearly
1                  $1,174  $14,079                         
2                    1,579  18,941                            
3                    1,984  23,803                           
4                    2,389  28,665                             
5                    2,794  33,527                            
6                    3,200  38,389                                                                                
Each additional 
member, add
               + $406 + $4,862                            

REDUCED-PRICE Eligibility Scale
Family Size Monthly  Yearly
1                $1,670  $20,036
2                  2,247   26,955
3                  2,823   33,874
4                  3,400   40,793
5                  3,976   47,712
6                  4,553    54,631
Each additional
Household member + 577 +6,919

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