By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Calculating New York State’s Foundation Aid to school districts is a simple four-part, 25-step, calculation that leads to a fifth part with two steps, the first of which, according to Superintendent of School Brian Graham, is “Forget everything you just did in Parts A through D. Maybe throw your calculator, rip up your papers, sigh in frustration. ...”
Graham led an interactive workshop meeting prior to Monday’s regular Board of Education meeting called “Pulling Back the Veil on Foundation Aid.” The presentation included an analysis of formulae, and a complex system – with its roots in more politics than math – of what the state calls shares and tiers.
Or make that shares and “tears” if you’re an administrator in a Western New York school district, because Graham’s analysis of Foundation Aid formula concludes that WNY districts are shortchanged in state aid as compared to the downstate districts.
Graham said the “gulf between the resources available to downstate school districts and those available to WNY school districts continues to widen.”
Graham’s analysis says “Only a handful of school district (Save Harmless Districts) in Western New York actually get their per pupil Foundation Aid amount each year. According to the Foundation Aid formula, most districts are underfunded. In our case, we received $86,884 more, but should have received $2,120,935 more.”
Of the 10 tiers from Tier A to Tier J, Grand Island is in Tier B. If New York state followed the Foundation Aid formula, Grand Island would have received $13,792,290.50, which is $2,120,935.50 more in Foundation Aid.
“If New York state simply ran the Foundation Aid formula, Grand Island would have received the funding necessary to help all of our students and potentially decrease the tax burden on the local levy,” Graham’s analysis concluded.
The next budget’s increase in Foundation Aid is projected to be even smaller than the $86,884, coming in at $63,833. The district says the last year the Foundation Aid formula ran was 2009.
It gets even more confusing and worse.
Other aid, expense-based aid, is predictable because it is based on actual expenditures by the school district, but the governor’s budget proposal rolls those aids together with Foundation Aid, giving the appearance that Foundation Aid is increasing.
Graham said the governor’s 2020-21 proposal to shift money away from expense-driven aids and into Foundation Aid would “be to simply filter more money through the tiers to satisfy the regional shares agreement ... which means less funding to Western New York.”
“It is extremely important to protect – NOT combine – these aids,” Graham’s notes said.
Graham concluded, “The regional shares agreement has reached the end of its useful life and needs to end.”
The board is drafting a letter of opposition to the problems discussed in the workshop. Their next meeting on the 2020-21 budget is March 9 in the Professional Development Room of Grand Island High School.
The next regular meeting of the Grand Island Board of Education will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 9, in the Professional Development Room of Grand Island High School, 1100 Ransom Road.
Board of Education Trustees
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