Wednesday, October 12, 2022

The very basic flaws in the Fair Student Funding formula

 Below are the comments I made at the Fair Student Funding Task Force session this afternoon.  Though I focused on the issue of class size of course, others contributed critical comments on other aspects for the formula; including the way it provides  extra funding to the specialized high schools despite the fact that their students are among the highest achieving in the city, the manner in which DOE makes cuts to schools via the mid-year adjustment forcing schools to excess teachers after the school year has begun (does  any other school district that uses a weighted student funding system do this?); and the under funding of schools who have to wait for November or beyond for more funding even though their enrollments are higher than projected, including schools that have gotten scores of new migrant students without the staff to teach them; and more.  

Not to mention that the formula insufficiently supports the needs of any students, so any increase in the amount provided to poor students, or those who are homeless or have disabilities would inevitably cut funding from other students, in a zero sum fashion.  A rough transcript of the proceedings is here; more info about the materials and minutes of the Working Group is here.

 If you want to send in comments, you can email ; deadline Oct. 27.  Thanks!


My name is Leonie Haimson and I’m the Executive Director of Class Size Matters.v There are some very basic flaws in in the Fair Student Funding system:

1-      The formula provides insufficient resources to ensure that schools can meet basic student needs – forcing principals to excess staff and cut critical programs and services, as seen from this year’s the budget cuts that have had hugely damaging impacts on most schools.

2-      The formula was designed in 2007 to incentivize principals to maximize class size – which is not only harmful to student learning but also in conflict with new state class size law, recently signed by the Governor. The FSF Taskforce created by the City Council in 2019 surveyed principals, of whom 80% of the identified large class sizes as a consequence of the FSF formula.[1] 

3-      The entire school funding system must be realigned to ensure that schools can meet the new staffing needs mandated by the law. 

4-      Relevant to this issue is how the programs prioritized by successive administrations have been funded separately from the Fair Student Funding and are instead funded on the basis of the need to staff entire classes, rather than individual students, as the previous DOE funding system was designed to do before FSF was introduced.

5-      There is precedent for creating a whole separate allocation system for smaller classes.  In fact, 3K and PreK classes are not subject to the formula.  Instead, schools are funded for an entire 3K and preK class no matter its size, and then capped at 15-18  students, with one classroom teacher  and one classroom paraprofessional. If there are more students per class than these caps, schools receive funding for a whole new class. This is so that they can meet the state law that caps class sizes in these grades. Special education PreK classes are capped at even smaller levels, with additional service providers. [2]

6-      The DOE also provides additional funding outside the formula to each school to “sustain Gifted and Talented (G&T) programs with enrollment lower than 18 students” in grades K-3, though the regular class sizes in these grades can be as large as 25 (in Kindergarten) and 32  ( in grades 1st-3rd.) [3]  This additional funding totaled more than $2.8 million last year and allowed schools to keep gifted classes in some schools as small as six to eight students per class.[4]

 Whether within the flawed FSF system or in a separate school allocation, as currently exists for 3K, preK and gifted classes, this task force should propose the creation of an additional funding mechanism to support and ensure the phase in of smaller classes in grades K-12, at the legally prescribed levels.


[3] This is the language from the FY 2022 School Allocation Memo entitled “Gifted and Talented Supplemental. The FY 2023 SAM has not yet been posted, though the DOE disclosed in a presentation dated May 2022 that they intended to spend $2 million  in federal ARPA funds to expand gifted & talented programming for FY 23.  

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