Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Why the Fair Student Funding Task Force report was never released, and recommendations from eight of its members

The Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools recently announced her intent to eliminate or radically reform their weighted student funding system, because it fails to properly provide for all the programs and services that students need and because it incentivizes principals to overcrowd their schools and classrooms. The same  flaws are inherent in the NYC Fair Student Funding system.

Following widespread protests, the  formula was first adopted by then-Chancellor Joel Klein in 2007, despite serious concerns as to whether it made sense and might lead to increases in class size over time (as it actually did). In January 2019, the City Council passed a law , Local Law 1174, to create a Task Force to analyze the  formula and come up with a report by Sept. 2019 with recommendations on how to improve it.  The below account was written by one of the Task Force members, Shino Tanikawa, to explain why the report was never released; and below her account are the recommendations submitted by eight of the members on the Task Force that the Mayor refused to accept or release.  

I was appointed to the Fair Student Funding Task force by DOE. The Task Force met regularly for 9 months, deliberated, and produced a report ready to be submitted to the Mayor and the Chancellor. Unfortunately during the final review by the City Hall, the report died a quiet death and was never released. 

It became clear the City Hall’s interest was in using the Task Force recommendation to pressure the State to fully fund the Foundation Aid, not to comprehensively evaluate the formula itself. The report contains many recommendations that would require more investment from both the City and the State. For example, we recommended increasing the Base Allocation to cover a wide range of essential staff, such as social workers and school counselors.

In addition, many advocates wanted to include language around evaluating the formula for its impact on class size but we were told the Fair Student Funding has nothing to do with class size reduction (they are wrong). The Mayor has always been reluctant to acknowledge the real need of our school system for smaller classes.

As you can see, one of our major recommendations was that the DOE should develop a class size reduction plan with specific milestones and timelines, especially as "the current funding allocation from Fair Student Funding incentivizes large class sizes in our schools."  We also found that "Nearly 80% of the principals, from 12 CSDs, who responded to a survey distributed by Task Force members identified large class sizes as a consequence of the FSF formula."

The DOE agreed to develop such a plan once our schools received full funding from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, but has reneged on that promise, once again, as it has so often in the past. 


Eight of the parent and advocate members of the Task Force, including me,  submitted our own version of the recommendations during the FSF public comment period in April 2021.  


I have now shared that report with Class Size Matters. -- Shino Tanikawa


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