A city panel approved a key funding formula for New York City’s public schools this week, a move that will allow schools to get their budgets and begin planning for next year.
The approval — a 12-1 vote, with one abstention — came after what is usually a routine, pro-forma step in the annual budgeting process hit a snag.
Last month, in a surprise move, members of the Panel for Educational Policy voted not to accept the longstanding formula – saying it’s outdated and inequitable.
The ‘no’ vote threatened to delay the release of individual school budgets and throw a wrench in schools’ ability to plan.
It was also seen as a blow to the Adams administration. While the mayor appoints a majority of members to the Panel for Educational Policy, Mayor Eric Adams was slow to make appointments, which contributed to the failure to pass the formula last month.
At issue is what’s called Fair Student Funding, the main funding stream for individual public schools. Under the matrix developed in 2007, schools get more funding for students who need extra support, including students with disabilities and English Language Learners.
But parents and advocates said the formula does not dedicate enough funding to those groups, and omits others in need.
“This formula is not ‘fair,'” said NeQuan C. McLean, co-chair of the Education Council Consortium and president of Community Education Council District 16.
On Wednesday night, parents, students and advocates said they want to see funding set aside for students in transitional housing and in foster care. They also called for a commitment to the additional funding for students with disabilities and students learning English.
“This is the need and ask for all of our parents, especially the parents with children in special education,” said Paullette Healey, vice president of the Citywide Council on Special Education.
Meanwhile, critics objected to a provision in the formula that sets aside extra funds for specialized and selective schools. Gabrielle Cayo, a student representative on the Panel for Education Policy who goes to Brooklyn Tech, said she thinks it’s wrong that selective schools get more funding, given that the schools enroll disproportionately fewer Black and brown students, and many of those schools often have substantial PTA support or even endowments.
“FSF needs to be catered to marginalized students,” she said.
Parents have been calling for changes like these for years. The de Blasio Administration convened a Fair Student Funding task force in 2019, and the group released a set of recommendations in April of last year, but officials did not make changes.
Some parents said they were disappointed that the new Adams administration did not revise the formula immediately following last month’s no vote.
Ted Leather, vice president of the Citywide Council of High Schools, noted that Schools Chancellor David Banks has repeatedly said community engagement and transparency are his top priorities. But, he said, “You chose not to listen.”
Banks, however, said he is listening.
“I just want you to know that I hear you,” Banks said. “I believe in it as strongly as you do.”
The chancellor promised to establish a working group on the formula, and make changes. But Banks said it will take time to get the formula right, and “if we don’t pass this, schools are not going to be able to do their budgets.”
“Passing it tonight does not mean the chancellor doesn’t give a damn,” he said. “This is a system I inherited but I’m fully committed to fixing it.”