Bruce Baker has written an illuminating and disturbing post about how New York is underfunding its highest-need schools.
Governor Cuomo likes to complain that the state spends far too much on education but sees little improvement. Baker demonstrates that the formula hurts the neediest students. The governor goes on to say that he will take money away from those districts if their teacher evaluations are poor. In effect, he is punishing them for enrolling students with high needs and threatening to make things worse.
Here is a small part of this very disturbing analysis of how New York State cheats and punishes the poorest districts:
“Riding the national, Duncanian wave of new normalcy (which I’ve come to learn is an extreme form of innumeracy) & reformyness, the only possible cause of lagging achievement in New York State is bad teachers –greedy overpaid teachers with fat pensions – and protectionist unions who won’t let us fire them. Clearly, the lagging state of performance in low income and minority districts in New York State has absolutely nothing at all to do with lack of financial resources under the low-balled aid formula that the state has chosen to not even half fund for the past 5 years? Nah… that couldn’t have anything to do with it. Besides, money certainly has nothing to do with providing decent working conditions and pay which might leveraged to recruit and retain teachers.
“And we all know that if New York State’s average per pupil spending is high, or so the Gov proclaims, then spending clearly must be high enough in each and every-one of the state’s high need districts! (right… because averages always represent what everyone has and needs, right? Reformy innumeracy rears its ugly head again!).
“So it absolutely has to be the fact that no teacher in NY has ever been evaluated at all, or fired for being bad even though we know for sure that at least half of them stink. The obvious solution is that they must be evaluated by egregiously flawed metrics – and we must ram those metrics down their throats.
“In fact, the New York legislature and Governor even found it appropriate to hold hostage additional state aid if districts don’t adopt teacher evaluation plans compliant with the state’s own warped demands and ill-conceived policy framework.
“As I understand it, legislation passed this past year actually tied receipt of state general aid to compliance with the state teacher evaluation mandate. That, in order to receive any increase in state general/foundation aid over prior year, a districts would have to file and have accepted their teacher evaluation plan.
“That’s it – we’ll take away their general state aid – their foundation aid – the aid they are supposed to be getting in order to comply with that court order of several years back. The aid they are constitutionally guaranteed under that order. I’m having some trouble accepting the supposed constitutional authority of a state legislature and governor to cut back general aid on this basis – where they’ve already failed to provide most of the aid they themselves identified as constitutionally adequate under court order? But I guess that’s for the New York Court system to decide.
“If nothing else, it is thoroughly obnoxious, arbitrary and capricious and grossly inequitable treatment. I hear the reformers (who understand neither math nor school finance) whine… But why… why is it inequitable to require similarly that poor and rich districts follow state teacher and principal evaluation guidelines. Setting aside the junk nature of that evaluation system and the bogus measures on which it rests (and the fact that the reformers’ fav-fab-charters have largely rightfully ignored the eval mandate), it is inequitable because districts serving higher poverty children stand to lose more money per child as a result of non-compliance. And they’ve already been squeezed.”