Teachers College, Columbia U Profs Discuss NYC School Funding
Following the recent decision by the New York State Court of Appeals in CFE vs. State of New York that requires State leaders to establish a commission to correct school financing formulas by giving more money to NYC schools, Teachers College, Columbia University, excerpts experts from issued the following comments.
Henry M. Levin, the William Heard Kilpatrick Professor of Economics and Education: “As I have emphasized in my own research, the amount of funding is a necessary condition to obtain appropriate results for all children. Fairer funding is a necessary condition for obtaining fairer outcomes. It is not a sufficient condition and will not serve to automatically meet the standard set by the Court.
Strengthening the responsibilities and capacities of families to undertake their roles are absolutely crucial to making progress. In my view, schools cannot do it alone. Thus, how additional funds are used is crucial. Early childhood education, tutoring and homework assistance and parental education to help children succeed, selecting and maintaining high quality teachers, are all important directions to pursue.”
Tom Sobol, former Commissioner of Education for the State of New York and currently the Christian A. Johnson Professor of Outstanding Educational Practice at Teachers College: “The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) has long understood that getting a favorable court decision is not the end of the matter. It’s a necessary victory and a great victory. Those of us who believe in the cause of poor kids having a good education are exulted at the victory we’ve won. That is just an important battle won. Not the war. The action now shifts to the legislature and the governor to comply with the court’s decision. The Campaign for Fiscal Equity has already developed a process of trying to specify the conditions kids need to have and the cost of those conditions. I expect we’ll hear more, not only from the legislature and the governor, but the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, as well, as we move into the next phase of these prolonged crusades.”
Jay Heubert, Associate Professor of Education and Law at Teachers College and Adjunct Professor of Law at Columbia University Law School: “Regarding the significance of the decision: New York and other states have set high standards—and assert that virtually all students can meet those standards. The CFE decision says is that it is the state’s responsibility to make sure that kids actually get a meaningful opportunity to acquire the high-level knowledge and skills that the State’s own standards reflect.
Many students in New York are not getting that opportunity now. Even as the State’s rigorous Regents requirements for high-school graduation go into effect, the current budget crisis is forcing New York and other states to cut the very funds that are intended to help students meet high standards. As a result, the heaviest accountability burdens fall increasingly on students, rather than on the adults whose constitutional responsibility it is to educate them well. In New York and elsewhere, many students are being denied high-school diplomas—the tickets to future educational and employment opportunity—for not knowing what their schools have never taught them. In short, the current state of affairs is sharply at odds with the recent decision in CFE vs. State of New York.”
Regarding the need to form a commission: “In New York, appointment of a blue-ribbon commission, with representation from the key constituencies concerned about public education, could help ensure that school districts and schools have the time and support they need to help all students reach high standards. Kentucky’s Pritchard Commission provides an illustration. Formed after a 1989 Kentucky Supreme Court decision similar to the recent CFE decision in New York, the Pritchard Commission has achieved broad public acceptance and credibility, in part because its members are well regarded and broadly representative.
That commission has been able to think through the difficult problems and resist pressures to adopt quick fixes. The result has been a school-improvement effort that most people regard as exemplary.
The recent high-court decision in New York raises many important questions, such as what constitutes a ‘sound basic education’ and how much it should cost to provide one to every student. A New York commission like Kentucky’s would be very helpful in addressing these questions and many others.”#
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