By Hannya Boulos
This week, a union-backed education advocacy group, Alliance for Quality Education, organized parents and students to parade in Albany demanding more money for schools, even while New York State ranks number one in the nation in per-pupil spending.
This tired call for more money is losing support, as parents in Buffalo and across the state are pushing for systemic education reform, not the status quo.
The latest report by AQE disregards evidence and reason in its quest for more money from taxpayers. New York spends more on education than any other state, almost double the national average, yet its students lag far behind those in other states in graduation rates and student achievement.
New York State spends 75 percent above the national average per student; New York’s least wealthy districts spend almost double the national average per student. According to the Alliance for Quality Education, New York’s 100 poorest districts spend an average of $19,106 per pupil. In comparison, states across the country spent an average of $10,615 per pupil. Even the districts that AQE charges with spending the least per-pupil spend more than any other state.
New York’s education system continues to underperform and overspend. This unfortunate reality is even more apparent in Buffalo. Forty-four out of 57 schools are labeled as low achieving; 72 percent of students in grades three to eight fail to attain English proficiency; 70 percent fail to attain proficiency in math. While enrollment has dropped in Buffalo by 3 percent since 2006, per pupil spending has increased by 23 percent to $19,883 in the 2010-11 school year.
In spite of these massive spending increases, unacceptable proficiency rates on state exams and low graduation rates persist in Buffalo and across the state. More spending has not translated to better outcomes.
The answer is not more money. The answer is spending education funds effectively on proven, research-based models that improve student achievement, pushing districts to streamline and innovate, and cutting ineffective programs. High-quality full-day pre-kindergarten, community schools and extended learning time, especially for our most at-risk students, are smart programs that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo prioritized in his executive budget.
The governor’s budget makes substantial investments in education, but it does so fairly and progressively by allocating more aid to high-need districts and funding programs and reforms that will increase student performance. The governor’s reform plan is what our families have needed for years, and those who call themselves advocates of our children’s futures should get behind it.
Funding the status quo will not improve schools in the best interest of children. Investing in smart initiatives, and holding leaders accountable, will.
Hannya Boulos is director of Buffalo ReformED.