Positive fiscal trends and issues impacting New York City school funding formula and local school budget
The American Common School system has been taken as an essential pillar that supports the diverse sectors of the economy. The responsibility of financing this education has been left mainly in the hands of the local communities. There have been widespread inequalities in the funding of this education. The amount of money available to the schools varies significantly from one district to another as well as across various states. This is so because of the uneven distribution of wealth across the regions in a State. This paper therefore critically looks at the positive/negative fiscal trends that are impacting on New York's City school funding formula and the local school budget. It also looks at how the problems identified in the funding formula and the school budget can be improved through a revised funding formula that promotes fairness and equality among the taxpayers.
New York City adopted a school funding formula in 2007 which allocates finances according to the grades a school serves and the student enrolment rates. The schools that receive additional funds are those that cater for students from poor backgrounds, students who are struggling academically or those learning English. This is based on the idea that these students need extra support and the schools the students are in need additional resources if the students are to be at par with other students from other schools. The formula adopted also takes care of certain selected schools in the understanding that students in these schools require extra attention so that they can realize their full potential. This criterion is called the weighted funding system. In this system, much of the budgeted money which averages $6 billion goes towards paying the teachers (Sassen 2013).
The formula also gives school principals more powers in such a way that they can allocate more money to the seasoned teachers or even employ junior teachers. Junior teachers are less expensive as compared to the experienced teachers and this would allow principals to save money that could be used on other programs. The system was also mean to bring order in the system that was initially not fair and lacked transparency. The initial system had some favoritism on the principals who could best work for the systems. The old system had a lot of inequalities that amounted to several thousand dollars per student. This was more pronounced in the middle-class neighborhoods and schools located in poor communities (Ravitch 2000).
The policy on school financing has helped educators, parents, and policymakers to define what the students should know and be able to do. The plan also identifies the cost implications of the students achieving these goals. There is also the element of building partnerships between the policymakers and the public agencies that support education matters to leverage the resources effectively and avoid competition for the limited funds. This approach is aimed at eliminating the costs and the time spent by the policymakers and the education leaders in the courts in search of solutions that are costly and unworkable (Menken & Solorza 2014).
What's wrong with New York's Budgeting System?
The funding formula adopted as not been able to achieve its objectives. The city officials who are responsible for school budgeting and funding had planned to avoid taking money from the wealthy schools. Instead, the plan was to raise the finances allocated to the poorer schools. , and in return, the school increased aid was rolled back to the districts. To date, the formula has not worked to its expectations. Some poorer schools have never been able to catch up with the wealthier ones. So far, less than 25% of the schools can access full financing as per the set formula. This is reflected in sampled schools that cater for needy students where the allocated finances are less than the required. In some schools, where the enrolment of students is low, the allocation is in its full capacity.
Some schools have also been seen to receive more than their fair share of financial resources. In the 2012-2013 fiscal year, the Dual Language School, which has over 85% of students being poor and 3%, disabled students, received over 112% of the budget money. New Design school, which has a 100% of the students being poor, only got 92% of the allocated money. This system still holds the unfair allocation of funds as the old system. The allocation formula has more money given to some selected schools enrolling a high number of high achieving students, with a small enrolment of black and Hispanic students. This translates to over $1,000 extra allocation per student (Gramlich 1976).
The money spent on student's needs to be given directly to the schools to plan on appropriate expenditures. Some programs run by the mayors like offering computer science classes and other advanced courses spend millions of dollars which if directly given to school principals, better results would be achieved.
Ways in which the identified problems can be improved upon a revised funding formula
The above issues can be improved upon by applying a revised funding formula that promotes fairness and equality among the taxpayers. The foundation funding formula was introduced to ensure that each child receives not less than what is allocated to him or her as a specified minimum (Darling 2015).
Policymakers, educators, parents, and taxpayers should ensure that the students are provided with adequate resources that will ensure that the child acquires education without any financial constraints. This should be regardless of whether the child is poor, disabled or rich. This will help to create equity and fairness when all resources that a child requires to acquire education are availed fully (National Research Council 1999).
The funding of students should be a constitutional right, and the courts should offer direction and interpret statutes related to education funding fully. A policy on redistribution of resources especially from high wealth districts to low-cost districts across New York City should be formulated (Laska & Spain 2016).
Another method in which the problems can be solved is ensuring that school funds are directed towards an education that enables students to be all rounded. The areas of focus should be writing and communication skills as well as knowledge based on the social, economic and political systems.
There is also the need to recruit junior teachers as opposed to the seasoned teachers. This will help in cutting down on the recurrent expenditures on teacher salaries and allowances. Through this, more junior teachers will be able to be engaged. When experienced teachers are employed, only a few will be considered due to the high salaries.
The policymakers also need to be more proactive in defining adequacy. This is regarding how much funds are adequate for all children to acquire the required education. The policymakers also need to involve teachers, parents, taxpayers, business leaders and the community at large. These are the key players in the education sector and finance education at all levels. The amount to be allocated per student also needs to be determined above an appropriate margin. This should be in total consideration of whether a child is poor, wealthy or with a disability. The resources available also need to be considered so that they can be distributed well without discrimination. The policymakers also need to think creatively about how to raise and allocate resources that will be able to sustain the education of a child adequately. Lastly, it is crucial for policymakers to build partnerships and leverage resources from other public and private agencies. This will help the policymakers to realize enough resources to cater for the education budget without deficits. It is vital for policymakers to avoid over or under-allocation of resources to children. Let them give 100% of the allocated funds. It is essential for public education advocates to work in collaboration with other agencies to come up with solutions that benefit all. Some schools collaborate with health caregivers to offer clinical services, and this reduces the costs incurred in acquiring the services of a nurse for those schools (Harper et al., 2014).
To sum it up, it has been observed that no formula guarantees 100% allocation of resources to ensure equity and adequacy. School resources come from the taxpayers and the stakeholders who need these resources to be allocated to the education of children without discrimination. To achieve this, all lovers of education need to be involved fully in coming up with the solutions to sealing funding gaps.
Sassen, S. (2013). The global city: New york, london, tokyo. Princeton University Press.Ravitch, D. (2000). The great school wars: A history of the New York City public schools. JHU Press.
Gramlich, E. M. (1976). The New York City fiscal crisis: what happened and what is to be done?. The American Economic Review, 66(2), 415-429.
National Research Council. (1999). Equity and adequacy in education finance: Issues and perspectives. National Academies Press.
Menken, K., & Solorza, C. (2014). No child left bilingual: Accountability and the elimination of bilingual education programs in New York City schools. Educational Policy, 28(1), 96-125.
Laska, S. B., & Spain, D. (Eds.). (2016). Back to the city: Issues in neighborhood renovation. Elsevier.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2015). The flat world and education: How America's commitment to equity will determine our future. Teachers College Press.
Harper, S. R., & Williams Jr, C. D. (2014). Succeeding in the city: A report from the New York City Black and Latino male high school achievement study. Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education.
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