Not long after corporate reform started in New York City, the Department of Education adopted a formula promoted by conservative think tanks called “fair student funding” or “weighted student funding.” The surface idea was that each child would have the money he or she deserved “strapped to his/her back.” (Sorry for the clumsy effort to be gender neutral.) The real purpose, from the point of view of those on the right, was to enable students to go to charter schools or maybe even voucher schools bringing their public dollars with them. After all it was only “fair.”

In New York City, the funding system was designed by Robert Gordon, an economist and reformer who now works for President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget.

A reader in New York City examined how fair student funding was affecting the schools serving the neediest students. The answer: they get a raw deal.

Wouldn’t you think that in an effort to be fair, the DOE would attach MORE funding to students who have the greatest needs? It turns out that they aren’t even getting a fair deal.

The New York State Department of Education has expressed concern about New York City’s pattern of concentrating high needs students in specific schools. New York City has refused to acknowledge the merit of those concerns.  In fact, the leaders of New York City’s schools place all responsibility on individual schools as in this recent story.

Blaming schools and teachers seems to have become the go-to strategy of high-level education bureaucrats. This is one way to avoid personal accountability. All they need to do is “evaluate” schools using standardized exams and manage their “portfolio” of schools using a range of punitive measures. We decided to look at one area where these bureaucrats can’t deny their role in helping schools either ameliorate or worsen the effects of poverty on kids. Namely, how does the New York City Department of Education fund the richest and poorest schools? As can be seen in the charts below these bureaucrats have decided to fund schools in ways that increase these inequities. The richest 10 elementary/middle schools (as measured by the percent of students who are eligible to receive free lunch) receive an average of 89.1% of the funds they are entitled to by the city’s own formula. On the other hand, the poorest 10 schools receive an average of 82.7% of the funds they are entitled to.  The range of values also favors the richest schools. None of them receive less than 86% of their funding formula. Some of the poorest schools, on the other hand, receive 22% less money than they would be entitled to under the city’s “Fair” Student Funding formula. 

Richest Schools

% of Fair Student Funding Actually Received

School Name

% of Students Free Lunch

90.68 Special Music School


88.52 P.S. 006 Lillie D. Blake


89.34 The Anderson School


88.08 P.S. 77 Lower Lab School


86.09 P.S. 234 Independence School


93.07 P.S. 098 The Douglaston School


87.23 P.S. 89




88.1 P.S. 041 Greenwich Village


89.16 P.S. 290 Manhattan New School



Poorest Schools

% of Fair Student Funding Actually Received

School Name

% of Students Free Lunch

85.4 P.S. 167 The Parkway


79.35 P.S. 199X – The Shakespeare School


78.81 P.S. 115 Alexander Humboldt


80.14 M.S. 302 Luisa Dessus Cruz


102.67 P.S. 034 Franklin D. Roosevelt


Closed M.S. 321 – Minerva


84.76 P.S. 025 Bilingual School


78.57 P.S. 230 Dr Roland N. Patterson


78.02 I.S. X303 Leadership & Community Service


79.46 P.S. 291



Perhaps when these bureaucrats announce that “poverty is not destiny” they could explain why they insist on sending poor kids to schools that they have deliberately impoverished through their own decisions. Do they feel that schools with poor kids don’t deserve the same funding as schools with rich kids?