New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli issued a report detailing regional trends in education funding, enrollment and conditions across the state. The report analyzes school district financial and demographic information from nine separate regions outside of New York City.
"Investments in New York's public schools are vital at both the state and local level," DiNapoli said. "By examining regional comparisons and trends in school district revenues, expenditures and student demographics, we can better inform the decisions of state lawmakers, education stakeholders and taxpayers."
In 2014-15, total school district revenues were $37.7 billion, which includes federal and state aid, the STAR subsidy and local revenue. Local revenue, overwhelmingly from property taxes, made up more than half of total school revenues (54.5 percent), an increase of 3 percentage points from 2004-05. Over the same period, federal and state aid (including STAR) each declined slightly as a percentage of total revenue by 1.4 and 1.6 percentage points.
Wealthier districts in New York often depend more on local revenues, such as property taxes, and less on state aid. For example, 68 percent of revenues for Long Island schools come from property taxes and other local sources. Similarly, the Mid-Hudson Valley relies on property taxes for nearly two-thirds of its revenues. In contrast, local revenues comprise only about a third of school district revenues for the Mohawk Valley and North Country regions.
The report found that school districts outside of New York City spent $27.1 billion in 2004-05, which increased to $37.6 billion in 2014-15. When adjusted for inflation, their expenditures increased $3.9 billion, or 1.4 percent on average annually, over the 10-year period.
The median per-pupil spending for school districts in 2014-15 was $22,658. The Mid-Hudson Valley had the highest median per-pupil spending rate at $26,636, while Western New York was lowest at $19,776. This measure varied greatly across the state and can be largely attributed to regional cost differences. DiNapoli's report noted that significant variations in per-pupil spending exist within each region.
The majority of upstate students outside the Capital District were in low-wealth districts.In the Mohawk Valley, 85 percent of students resided in low-wealth districts. In the North Country and Southern Tier, 74 percent and 70 percent, respectively, were in low-wealth districts. By contrast, on Long Island and in the Mid-Hudson Valley region, a majority of students (approximately 66 percent and 63 percent) were in wealthier districts.
Other findings in the Comptroller’s report include:
- Over the 10-year period, total student enrollment declined 7.6 percent, from 1.8 million to 1.67 million. The Southern Tier experienced the sharpest rate of decline in the number of students (1.5 percent average annual rate), while the average annual rates of decline in downstate regions were less significant (0.5 percent for Long Island and 0.4 percent for the Mid-Hudson Valley).
- The proportion of students with limited English proficiency varied by region in 2014-15, with the highest rates found on Long Island (7 percent) and the Mid-Hudson Valley (6.2 percent). The North Country had the lowest rate at 0.4 percent.
- The percentage of students eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch was 39 percent in 2014-15, and 17 percent of students were considered to be living in poverty. The regional differences in these measures were significant in the Mohawk Valley with 53 percent of students eligible for free- or reduced-price lunches and 26 percent of students living in poverty. Long Island had the fewest students receiving free- or reduced-price lunches at 26 percent and only 8 percent living in poverty.
- The four-year graduation rate in 2014-15 was 86 percent,with moderate regional variation (from 80 percent in the Mohawk Valley to 90 percent on Long Island). Also, 94 percent of the graduates received a Regents diploma or an advanced Regents diploma, up 11 percentage points from 2004-05.
- School safety, measured by the prevalence of reported assaults with injury, also varied across the regions. In 2014-15, Long Island had the lowest rate of school violence on a per-pupil basis, while Central New York had the highest. Six of the nine regions reported a drop in incidents between 2004-05 and 2014-15. Weapons possession incidents ticked up in five regions over the same time period.