School & District Management

Ed. Dept. Probing Claim of Racial Disparity in N.Y. Funding

By Lauren Camera — January 06, 2015 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights is investigating whether the New York State Department of Education and the New York State Board of Regents discriminated against districts with large numbers of students of color by directing less funding their way than to predominately white districts.

The investigation follows a complaint by the superintendents of the Schenectady and Middletown school districts in upstate New York that “the funding structure implemented by New York State results in discrimination against school districts with predominantly nonwhite student populations, English-language-learner students, and students with disabilities.”

They originally filed the grievance against the state of New York, the New York state legislature, the governor of New York, the state comptroller, the state board of regents, and the state education department, but OCR has jurisdiction only over the latter two.

The Nov. 25 announcement comes in the wake of guidance issued by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in October clarifying the civil rights office’s role in investigating complaints of discrimination based on deep disparities between poor and minority students and their more advantaged peers.

“It’s the right thing to do. Hopefully, change will result from it,” Larry Spring, the superintendent of the 10,000-student Schenectady City School District said in the press release issued after the investigation was announced.

Since the initial announcement, however, the federal Education Department and the two school districts have declined to make additional comments about the investigation.

Complaints About Inequity

The Education Department’s civil rights office has investigated allegations of resource inequity before, including inequitable access to strong teachers, college-preparatory coursework, technology, and facilities.

But prior to its October guidance letter, the Education Department hadn’t released guidance on this topic for nearly 13 years.

The New York investigation will focus on New York’s Foundation Aid, a $5.5 billion pool of money that the Empire State is supposed to be distributing to schools based on student-need factors, including poverty, English-language-learner status, and the number of students with disabilities.

That pot of money was the result of a 2007 New York State Court of Appeals ruling that sided with parents who brought a lawsuit against the state arguing that it was violating its constitutional obligation to provide every student with a “sound basic education.” The ruling charged the state with investing $5.5 billion over four years into schools through the Foundation Aid formula.

However, an August 2014 report from the Alliance for Quality Education, a New York group that advocates for equal funding for school districts, showed that the amount of Foundation Aid owed per pupil is 2.3 times greater in high-need districts than in wealthy districts.

The Schenectady school district and the 7,000-student Middletown district are among the 8 percent of districts in New York with minority-majority student populations. The civil rights office hasn’t set a timeline for the New York state investigation.

A version of this article appeared in the January 07, 2015 edition of Education Week as Ed. Dept. Probing Claim of Racial Disparity in N.Y. Funding


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management How Staff Shortages Are Crushing Schools
Teachers are sacrificing their planning periods, students are arriving hours late, meals are out of whack, and patience is running thin.
11 min read
Stephanie LeBlanc, instructional strategist at Greeley Middle School in Cumberland Center, Maine.
Stephanie LeBlanc, an instructional strategist at Greeley Middle School in Cumberland Center, Maine which has lost almost half its special education staff.
Ryan David Brown for Education Week
School & District Management With $102 Million in Grants, These Districts Plan to Train Principals With a Focus on Equity
The new grant program from the Wallace Foundation will help eight school districts work on building principals’ capacity to address equity.
11 min read
Image of puzzle pieces with one hundred dollar bill imagery
School & District Management Opinion Toxic Positivity Has No Place in Schools
Educators can’t do everything, but we can do some things, writes district leader Cherisse Campbell.
Cherisse Campbell
4 min read
A teacher sits on her desk thinking in an empty classroom.
Joy Velasco for Education Week
School & District Management The Already Dire Substitute Shortage Could Get 'Worse Before It Gets Better'
School districts are trying all sorts of tactics, including increasing pay and relaxing requirements, to get more subs in classrooms.
10 min read
Image of an empty classroom.