7 On Your Side Investigates: How do some schools end up with more funding?

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Problems with New York's own plan to increase fairness and equal opportunities for kids in school have allowed inequity in schools to continue, according to the analysis of state funding data by Eyewitness News as part of an ongoing investigation.

Districts with less need according to state metrics such as Fire Island, Edinburg and Putnam; have received 1220%, 1525% and 1812%, of the funding they were promised under the state's Foundation Aid formula, which was created in 2007 after the state lost a lawsuit accusing it of failing to provide all students with a sound basic education.

Meanwhile, other needier districts have received only a fraction of the state aid they're owed.

On the low end, Riverhead and Ossining have received just 40% and 41% of the money they were promised.

The two school districts are part of the 'Harmed Suburban Five,' a group of districts with rising poverty levels and an increasing number of minority students.

The 'Harmed Suburban Five' includes Riverhead, Ossining, Westbury, Glen Cove, and Port Chester.

The districts' superintendents complain they are struggling to serve these students in part because they have been repeatedly shortchanged by the state.

"The formula needs to consider districts like Riverhead, like Ossining, Westbury, Glen Cove, and Port Chester, who've seen such a dramatic increase in a short period of time," said Riverhead Superintendent Dr. Aurelia Henriquez. "To meet the needs of our students, we need proper funding, fair funding."

"Our kids aren't having the same opportunities. They're not having an equitable education compared to other districts," said Monica Alexandris-Miller, a mom in the Glen Cove School District.

Parents and administrators complain part of the problem is a 'hold harmless' rule the New York legislature tied to Foundation Aid which guaranteed districts would not receive a cut in funding.

As a result, districts in communities with stable or rising economies and declining student enrollments, have continued to receive level funding or bumps in funding despite their estimated need decreasing.

Meanwhile, the state has not kept pace with districts facing significant increases in need, such as the Harmed Suburban Five, causing these districts to routinely receive state funding that meets only a fraction of their needs.

"We can't continue to survive that way. Our children truly deserve more," said Glen Cove Superintendent Maria Rianna.

Redirecting Foundation Aid funding from the districts identified as receiving over 100% of their share, would not entirely eliminate the shortfall other needy districts face, but the Citizen's Budget Commission estimated fixing the formula could "redirect $2.7 billion to needy districts."

Senate Education Chair Shelley Mayer acknowledged the state's formula for funding education has not worked.

"We do have to revisit the formula," Mayer said during a meeting with concerned parents.

Mayer also cautioned this year's budget will likely look like another funding Band-Aid leaving the legislature to spend the upcoming year working on a long term solution to funding inequities in the state.

"I am very committed to getting through this hurdle," Mayer said. "The issue is how we can drive money toward your districts."


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