Shame on the City

Preliminary NYC public school budgets are up and out for all to see. In spite of the mayor's assurances of a citywide 91 percent Fair Student Funding (FSF) average with the new low being raised up to 87 percent, people were hoping that balancing out disparities that existed for years would have been a priority for the DOE and the Mayor. That equity in FSF would have been front and center. That perennially underfunded schools would have brought a bit more up to speed.

Disheartening to say nope, nope, and a tiny bit.

Yes, the lowest of funding percentages have been raised. And that's great for those schools. Sort of. Because they're still receiving less funding than others. My question is: why are some receiving more? Are the students at better-funded schools more deserving? Smarter? Are they in better neighborhoods? Are their teachers more active? Parents more engaged? Or are kids more challenged? Books in lower supply? More experienced teachers needed?

Did anyone look at current funding and think about an overhaul? About leveling the playing field? About making Fair Student Funding more fair? Did anyone ask why this all happened in the first place? What steps could be taken to make sure it doesn't happen again? How the continued inequity in schools that didn't get more funding should be addressed?

Brooklyn Technical High School, the school my kids attend, the school where I co-run the PA, the school I've been advocating for, got a .22 percent bump in funding for the next school year. To put it another way, that's just over one fifth of one percent. For a school already struggling to make ends meet, keeping the status quo is nothing but disheartening. It's been years of the same old same old while costs continue to rise. Amongst the eight test-in specialized high schools in Brooklyn Tech's cohort, in which, according to Fair Student Funding guidelines, students are supposed to be funded equally, Tech continues to funded lower than anyone else.

Why is it that Brooklyn Tech will be getting 87.59 percent next fiscal year while another specialized high school will now be funded at over 125.55 percent of its FSF budget -- an increase of almost 2 percent?

(Quick aside: wow. Seriously, WOW. Why is a school already funded at over 100 percent of its budget getting even more?)

While that is a completely valid query, within the grouping of specialized high schools, one could argue that the latter school is far smaller. So, to further narrow down the apples to apples analogy and compare just the large three -- Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science, and Stuyvesant, which all serve over 3000 students -- why is Stuyvesant funded almost 10 percent higher than the other two? And, out of these three, Brooklyn Tech has, by far, the highest percentage of students living at or below the poverty level. But, amongst these top tier schools, the students most in need get the least support.

This issue brings up even bigger questions: where is the oversight, or checks and balances when it comes to funding? Requests to the comptroller have gone unanswered. Testimony to the Panel of Education Policy garnered no action. How can this continue with thousands upon thousands of students underserved by the city and treated financially as less thans?

When the mayor and the chancellor talk about the importance of diversity in schools, yet choose not to support this remarkably diverse institution, those words don't ring true. While improving underperforming schools and making sure those kids get the opportunities they deserve is exceedingly important, so is supporting those who've work so hard to get to where they are. When the DOE encourages parent involvement and engagement but then doesn't act on the concerns of families, it gets more and more challenging to muster energy and interest to advocate.

And yet the families of Brooklyn Tech are still fighting for equity for our students and their school.

Yes this conversation is a broken record. Yes the squeaky wheel syndrome is firmly in place and will continue to be until the mayor, the chancellor, and the DOE provide solutions based in substance and depth, not buzz words and quick fixes so that more NYC public school students get the educational support they should.