Who Is In Charge

Buried in the budget, Cuomo proposes controversial change to school funding formula

A funding formula designed to give more money to high-need schools has been altered under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal, to the consternation of several advocacy groups.

The “foundation aid” formula — which the state created in response to a lawsuit claiming that school funding inequities deny students a sound basic education — has been a heated topic for years. Advocates have long argued the state has not fulfilled its promise to help equalize funding for lower-income districts, including New York City. If the formula were fully run this year, for instance, New York City would be due an additional $1.9 billion, they say.

The governor’s controversial proposal would not include a commitment to fully phase in the total funding advocates say is owed statewide, which the State Education Department estimates at about $4.3 billion this year. Some advocates say Cuomo’s changes constitute a “repeal” of foundation aid.

State officials say the characterization is unfair. The full funding owed under the foundation formula was always meant to be a goal, is not legally binding and is not currently realistic, officials from the governor’s office said. Moreover, the governor has allotted a $428 million increase for foundation aid in his budget proposal this year, and there is no indication he will not continue to increase that number in future years, they said.

“Any suggestion that the foundation aid formula has or will be eliminated is a direct attempt to mislead the public and factually untrue,” said Morris Peters, a spokesman for the state Division of Budget.

Advocates also say the change could increase uncertainty for districts.

From the language in the budget, it appears that starting next year, the state will use a new formula that could potentially change every year, according to the New York State Council of School Superintendents. The council’s Deputy Director Robert Lowry says that substitutes a transparent decision-making process for one that is more unreliable for school districts. (State officials argued that the budget already changes every year, so districts can never be sure how much aid they will receive.)

Until now, it seemed as if advocates were making headway in obtaining the full funding they say schools should receive. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie suggested establishing a timetable for fully implementing the formula and the state’s Board of Regents suggested a three-year full phase-in.

Some of the changes made to the formula were praised by advocates this year, including Cuomo’s proposal to alter the way the state calculates poverty. But for many, that news was outweighed by this new proposal, which they see as a way for the governor to avoid ever fully phasing in the original foundation aid formula.

“The governor has proposed a Jekyll and Hyde approach to school aid,” stated Michael Borges, executive director of the New York State Association of School Business Officials, “that on one hand makes improvements to the foundation aid formula … and on the other hand eviscerates the foundation aid formula by severing the connection with the full phase-in amount.”

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.