School districts with many minority students are getting less of the state aid they are supposed to receive than districts with mostly white students, according to Schenectady City School District Superintendent Laurence Spring.
Spring presented his research to the school board Wednesday. Board members said they were surprised and asked Spring to immediately send his presentation to state officials.
Spring researched which districts in the state had “minority as majority” student bodies — Schenectady is one of those districts. He found that just one non-white district is getting 90 to 99 percent of the state aid required by a court settlement that determined how much money is needed to provide a basic education.
Meanwhile, 62 mostly white districts are getting 90 to 99 percent of their court-ordered aid.
At the lower end of the spectrum, 37 districts are getting 50 to 59 percent of their court-ordered aid. Of those, 12 are predominantly non-white, including Schenectady.
Only 8 percent of the state’s districts are predominantly non-white, but a third of those are getting 50 to 59 percent of their court-ordered aid.
Of those getting less than 50 percent of their court-ordered aid, 30 percent are predominantly non-white.
“You can see it’s heavily weighted,” Spring said. “That strikes me as alarming and something to be very concerned about.”
In dollars per pupil, Schenectady is already receiving much more aid than many other districts. To choose the nearest example, mostly-white Niskayuna gets $2,740 per student, while heavily minority Schenectady gets about $7,300 per student.
But Spring argues that Schenectady, due to its poverty, deserves more money. Niskayuna is getting 66 percent of what it should under the court-ordered settlement, while Schenectady is getting 54 percent of what it should be receiving.
Looking at the matter from a racial perspective makes it even more clear that the state aid is unfairly distributed, Spring said. A more equitable formula would leave about four non-white districts at the lowest funding levels, Spring said. Instead, there are 15 non-white districts at those levels, including Schenectady. There are also 32 white districts at those funding levels.
Spring called the funding discriminatory. Because non-white students are getting so much less than they are supposed to, he said, he plans to push the issue much harder.
“I see it as my responsibility to raise the dialogue to a different level,” he said.
Putting the issue a different way, Spring said 53 percent of white districts get at least 79 percent of their court-ordered aid, compared to only 20 percent of non-white districts.
“Our minorities are getting the short end of the stick,” he added.
He asked residents to call their state representatives and ask them two questions regarding the state aid formula.
“Ask them if they’re aware this is the way the formula works. Ask if they’re OK with the way the formula works,” he said.
Board member Ron Lindsay urged Spring to send his presentation to state officials, even those who have heard from the district already in its letter-writing campaign.
“It’s OK for people to keep hearing from us,” Lindsay said, “because if we don’t advocate, no one’s going to advocate, and our children are too precious to not advocate for them.”
After the meeting, several parents said they would send out more letters, even to state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, who has said he thinks rural districts need more help than Schenectady.
One parent dismissed Farley’s comments, saying she wouldn’t “save a stamp,” as Farley had suggested when he was told of the letter-writing campaign.