Saturday 10 December 2022
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Syracuse Schools Struggle to Improve Due to State Funding Cuts

Back to schoolThe nation’s schools never seem to have enough money, forcing many to go out of their way to raise funds, as evidenced by the fact that 73% of school fundraising sales are made by elementary school parents, students, and volunteers. However, some Syracuse schools are struggling much more than others, which has recently led to some legal issues.

On Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, a lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Division of Budget was filed by parents of children in disadvantaged districts across the state with help from the Alliance for Quality Education. The division retracts funds previously allocated for struggling schools based on “significant” improvement.

In Syracuse alone, there were 17 schools considered to be struggling. They were placed in “receivership,” a program that grants the superintendent of the school the power of an Independent Receiver, allowing them to adjust the length of school day, year, or curriculum. The schools are also given access to a portion of $75 million in state aid to spearhead a turnaround effort, within a one to two-year period. Once removed, the policy says that the schools are still to be granted access to state funds.

Grant Middle School, a priority school deemed to be “persistently struggling,” was removed from receivership after one year due to improved test scores, but under Cuomo’s division, they will not be able to access the state funds.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says that Cuomo’s decision to take away these “Transformation Grants” halfway through the schools’ transition process is inappropriate and inhibits their abilities to continue on their tracks to success. She supports the lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

Under the current state of things, schools like Grant Middle and others that have been removed from receivership will have to rely on existing school funds and fundraising sales, often made by school parents, students, and volunteers.

Struggling schools are often located in poor, urban areas, without access to the same resources that more advantaged schools have. Consequently, grades and test scores often fall short of expectations, resulting in the need for programs like receivership. Without assistance, these schools are unable to provide the education that these children need to succeed.

Enrollment factors into the state aid formula, but among upstate’s three largest districts—Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse—only Syracuse has seen an increase in enrollment. Yet, it still receives as much as 38% less funding per pupil than the other two cities.

The state aid formula in New York State is based on the area’s economy, taxability, and need. While this sounds balanced and reasonable, the formula is rarely followed precisely.

Syracuse is the ninth poorest district in the state, but somehow manages to fall short in funding, due to powerful lawmakers in other regions, like New York City and Long Island, that control the state Legislature. Wealthier districts can afford to pay higher taxes to qualify for more funding from the state, leaving a harsh disparity among districts state-wide.

Regardless, Syracuse City Schools are still taking measures to improve the quality of education that their students receive. While most schools began after Labor Day, Grant Middle School began classes nearly two weeks prior, giving them a head-start on the year ahead.