Pearl River, NY -- (9/7/16) Tom DePrisco, candidate for the 38th Senate District in New York, today released analysis on the East Ramapo School District funding showing that the District has been severely underfunded.
Previously, I have commented on how much education aid is owed to our school districts. The State Legislature has not provided the necessary equitable distribution of Foundation Aid to our school districts. Foundation Aid is the largest unrestricted aid category that was designed to provide equitable and predictable funding that considered cost, need and local school district ability to pay. Foundation Aid is based upon and computed by the number of public school students attending various programs (district schools, charter, and BOCES). During the 2015-16 school year, East Ramapo received $33.6 million in Foundation Aid, more total and more per student than all school districts in the 38th Senate District with the exception of North Rockland. School districts receive additional state aid for services and materials for ALL students, whether public or private, who reside within the confines of the school district. These categories include special education, transportation, textbooks, library materials, computer software, and computer hardware. Transportation aid is given to all school districts since they are required to provide transportation for private school students as is provided to public school students. During the 2015-16 school year, East Ramapo received more transportation aid per student, calculating both public and private school students, than most other neighboring school districts. School districts are allotted specific dollar amounts for textbook aid ($58.25), computer software aid ($14.98) and library aid ($6.25) for each public and private school student. Hardware aid is computed by a formula. Based upon a review of East Ramapo’s state aid, the district received its approximate allotment based upon reported private school enrollment figures. Acknowledging that East Ramapo receives its approximate fair share of state aid for these services and materials, let’s take a closer look at the Foundation Aid as well as the total aid education aid package received by East Ramapo.
The NYS Education Department utilizes various factors when computing state aid for school districts: the district’s ability to pay, income, and district wealth. Each school district is assigned a Combined Wealth Ratio (CWR) index - “1” being average for the state, “>1” being above average for the state (the higher the number, the greater the district wealth), and “<1” being below average for the state (the lower the number, less district wealth and greater district poverty). East Ramapo was assigned a CWR Index of 1.25 while Pearl River received 1.24, Ramapo Central 1.23, Clarkstown 1.27, Nanuet 1.17, Nyack 1.38, South Orangetown 1.47, North Rockland 0.75, Ossining 1.2, and Briarcliff Manor 2.33. Although East Ramapo has the 5th highest CWR out of the ten school districts in the 38th Senate District, its residents have the lowest per capita income, lowest median household income, highest percentage of poverty, and the highest percentage of students receiving free lunch. (See Chart A below)
After conducting an extensive review of state education aid appropriations to many school districts, individual school district financial information, United States Census data, and New York State Education Department information, I have reached a conclusion that based upon existing data, the East Ramapo School District is being severely underfunded and shortchanged in Foundation Aid and total education aid. For my research, I used data from the 2015-16 school year.
So what does this mean? As you will see, if East Ramapo were to receive a similar amount of state aid in proportion to the other school districts compared, it would receive additional annual education aid anywhere from $1.4 million through $68.6 million. The East Ramapo budget was $218 million and received $68 million in state aid. The state aid represented 31% of the district’s total revenue.
The following chart illustrates the enrollment and aid per student for ten of the twenty compared school districts, including East Ramapo. (Refer to Charts B & C for complete analysis)
District County Enrollment Aid per Student Difference in Aid
East Ramapo Rockland 8,385 $7,715 ------
Kingston Ulster 6,312 $8,500 $785
Mount Vernon Westchester 8,733 $9,659 $1,944
Peekskill Westchester 3,214 $10,521 $2,806
Hempstead Nassau 8,479 $12,326 $4,611
Newburgh Orange 11,206 $11,990 $4,275
Poughkeepsie Duchess 4,331 $12,925 $5,210
Yonkers Westchester 26,256 $9,498 $1,783
Brentwood Suffolk 18,471 $12,042 $4,327
Wyandanch Suffolk 2,341 $15,904 $8,189
Mount Vernon’s $9,659 aid per student was 25% higher than East Ramapo while having half the poverty rate, 34% higher per capita income, and 20% lower percentage of students receiving free lunch. If East Ramapo received a similar proportionate amount of aid per student, it would receive an additional $16.3 million annually.
Peekskill’s $10,521 aid per student was 36% higher than East Ramapo while having less than half the poverty rate, 47% higher per capita income, and similar percentages of students receiving free lunch. If East Ramapo received a similar proportionate amount of aid per student, it would receive an additional $23.5 million annually.
Hempstead’s $12,326 aid per student was 60% higher than East Ramapo while having a much lower poverty rate, similar per capita income, and the same percentage of students receiving free lunch. If East Ramapo received a similar proportionate amount of aid per student, it would receive an additional $38.6 million annually.
Newburgh’s $11,990 aid per student was 55% higher than East Ramapo while having a much lower poverty rate, 25% higher per capita income, and similar percentages of students receiving free lunch. If East Ramapo received a similar proportionate amount of aid per student, it would receive an additional $35.8 million annually.
Poughkeepsie’s $12,925 aid per student was 66% higher than East Ramapo while having nearly half the poverty rate, 66% higher per capita income, and with a higher percentage of students receiving free lunch. If East Ramapo received a similar proportionate amount of aid per student, it would receive an additional $43.7 million annually.
Yonkers’ $9,498 aid per student was 23% higher than East Ramapo while having half the poverty rate, 50% higher per capita income, and 20% lower percentage of students receiving free lunch. If East Ramapo received a similar proportionate amount of aid per student, it would receive an additional $15 million annually.
Brentwood’s $12,042 aid per student was 56% higher than East Ramapo while having one third the poverty rate, similar per capita income, and a lower percentage of students receiving free lunch. If East Ramapo received a similar proportionate amount of aid per student, it would receive an additional $36.3 million annually.
Wyandanch’s $15,904 aid per student was more than double that of East Ramapo while having less than half the poverty rate, 7% higher per capita income, and similar percentage of students receiving free lunch. If East Ramapo received a similar proportionate amount of aid per student, it would receive an additional $68.6 million annually.
1. I have repeatedly stated that East Ramapo requires a long-term resolution to its fiscal crisis.
The present aid formula used to determine Foundation Aid must be thoroughly examined and reevaluated to reflect the district’s true needs and ability to pay. Being fiscally prudent, I do not believe in proposing increased spending on specific programs without consideration of how the programs will be paid for. Here is a suggestion: for several years including this year, the State Legislature was poised to approve spending for the failed Education Investment Tax Credit. If this bill had passed this year, $150 million would have been set aside in 2017, $225 million in 2018, and $300 million in 2019 and every year thereafter. If our lawmakers in Albany were prepared to appropriate this amount of funding, we can certainly find a way to increase Foundation Aid to properly fund the East Ramapo School District. It is vital that we remain steadfast with the priority of making public education whole again. Unfortunately my opponent may have forgotten this considering he has been a staunch supporter of the Education Investment Tax Credit legislation even while school districts were still owed the Gap Elimination Adjustment funds and owed increased Foundation Aid.
2. Ensure the increased annual Foundation Aid remains sustainable so East Ramapo can effectively plan, restore, and sustain long-term academic programs. The goal must be to restore the previously eliminated academic programs and restore East Ramapo’s reputation of excellence.
3. Fiscal monitoring of the school district’s budgetary appropriations must continue. Providing additional state aid without oversight would be foolish considering how much the public school programs and students have suffered as a result of the massive budget cuts throughout the years. “Trust, but verify” has been one of my mottos since spoken by former President Reagan in 1987. The intent should be to ensure appropriate foundation aid for restoration of public school programs. As I stated earlier, the district appears to be receiving ample state aid for the other authorized services and materials provided to all private and public school students.
Understandably, this funding analysis and proposal will be discussed and debated. Considering how long this crisis has continued and the cost to restore East Ramapo’s programs, it is about time your legislative representatives developed a fair and equitable solution.
I will dedicate my time and effort to ensure all of our school districts are receiving appropriate and equitable education aid.
As you can see, I don’t just speak words, I analyze, I problem-solve and I act."
Tom DePrisco is a resident of Pearl River. He serves as the Vice President of the Pearl River School District School Board and the Rockland County School Boards Association. For more information visit www.TomDePrisco.com.