Districts underfunded

It recently was announced by the state Department of Education that it had “incorrectly allocated [Title IIA school aid] while implementing new federal funding formula” for several school districts in the state for the 2017-18 school year.

The state awarded over-allocations to 275 charter schools and three school districts, which resulted in under-allocations to 677 school districts and 10 Special Act schools.

Every school district in our area was impacted by this mistake.

While the amounts were mostly small amounts, Gloversville was shorted nearly $21,000 of its budget that would have been used to support professional development of school staff and enrichment of education. Johnstown received almost $6,300 less, while Amsterdam took the biggest hit — $22,000.

Jeanne Beatty, a public information official for the Department of Education said local districts probably did not notice they did not receive the correct amount in 2017 because of the new formula provided by the federal government.

“Last year was the first year under the new calculation given by the feds,” Beattie said. “So we think that is why the districts did not notice [they did not receive the correct amounts].”

While the districts in Fulton, Montgomery and Hamilton counties will “be made whole again” this year — the underpayment was added to the calculated amount they are allocated for the 2018-19 school year — it doesn’t solve the problem the miscalculation caused in the first place. Some school districts, because of the overpayment to charter schools and the plan to let them pay it back over a four-year period, won’t be made whole for two or three years. What opportunities were lost last year for educators and students because of the underpayment?

To make matters worse, according to the news release, as a result of changes to the Title IIA federal funding formula, the Congressional Research Service estimates that New York’s allocation will decrease by approximately $60 million within the next six years. New York state’s total allocation under the new funding formula decreased in 2017-18 and 2018-19, as USDE shifted additional funding to smaller states. The Department of Education expects the downward trend to continue.

The mistake made at the state level can and will be fixed, but it is a real reminder that real diligence remains on the education front to ensure our children are getting the education they deserve, there is equality in the funding and our school districts are getting the correct amount of aid.