The state Board of Regents was busy last week adopting a new set of standards to replace the beleaguered Common Core and adopting a new plan to evaluate schools with measures that go well beyond test scores.
Nothing is simple when it comes to the state of the schools in New York and, while these two actions seem to indicate stability in the future, they are more likely to be just two more moving parts in an unstable universe.
It is hard to imagine the opt-out movement being satisfied with any widespread testing and it is hard to imagine the teachers unions accepting any meaningful measure of accountability.
Just look at the situation in New York City, where hundreds of teachers remain on salary with little to do because they are either in trouble or not wanted by schools, a situation that most likely is in the best interests of the students, although not in the best interests of the taxpayers.
All of this comes as the Citizens Budget Commission has come out with the kind of analysis that state legislators should read before they vote on the next round of increases for state aid to education.
The CBC analysis starts with something that should be shocking, the news that New York spends more per pupil than any state in the nation. The figure for the 2014-2015 school year, the last one with complete records, was $21,206 per pupil, compared to the national average of $11,392.
In return, New York gets mediocre results by any measure, and there are many which put the state well below the average. Some states get much better results with much less spending. Some, including nearby New Jersey, get much better results with just a bit less spending.
But even that is not the most important educational funding topic in the news today. The one that should be on top of many legislative minds is the wide variations documented by the CBC in both the amount each district spends per pupil and the source of the revenue.
The wealthier a district is, the more it spends on each pupil because it has the ability to raise and spend more money through local taxes. Even with more state aid going to the poorer districts, the difference is considerable and despite the ups and downs of total state aid in the annual budget, the impact is the same.
Nobody knows that better than the schools in Newburgh, Kingston, Port Jervis and five others that are fighting in court to get what they say the state owes them, a combined shortfall of $150 million each year.
The schools are fighting an uphill battle because their case is on appeal, having been rebuffed already. Although they appear to have the kinds of facts that would support their side, including the amounts they received and the number of positions they had to cut when state aid did not keep up with needs, it’s hard to win when you’re going up against the state educational bureaucracy, the attorney general and especially the legislative leadership which is dominated by people who represent those wealthy districts.