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New York keeps spending more on schools and getting less results

If school achievement depended only on funding, New York’s kids would be performing twice as well as other American children. Alas, they’re not — and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s budget will only boost the spending gap more, with no path toward better results.

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That was Empire Center Director of Research Peter Warren’s wake-up-call message to lawmakers Wednesday, and it’s a powerful argument both to hold the line on education spending in the state and to lift the cap on public charter schools — which outperform traditional schools at far less cost.

In the 2018-19 school year, Warren notes, New York shelled out $25,139 per kid, “more than any other state and nearly twice the national average of $13,187.” And New York City spent $28,004 per student, “easily the most” among major US urban districts.

Even New York’s “stingiest” school-spending districts, in the Mohawk Valley, shower more money on each student than the average in every other state. And now Hochul wants to increase state outlays for schools by another 7%.

Meanwhile, New York scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (the “gold standard” for comparing student performance across states) are middling and slowly falling further down the pack, even as per-pupil NY outlays soar.

Gov. Kathy Hochul wants to continue increasing the spending budget, even though students are not performing well.
Kevin P. Coughlin/Gov Kathy Hoch

Education funding was “only” 42% higher than the national average 20 years ago, not double. Meanwhile, enrollment has plunged 8% over the past decade.

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The obvious answer is to hold teachers and schools more accountable for results. But it’s nearly impossible to fire bad teachers in the regular public schools or even discipline them; many districts don’t even try.

And traditional schools are scrutinized less and held to lower standards than public charters. Which is one reason charters outperform them, even with less public funding. A key 2017 Stanford University study found New York charter kids gain the equivalent of 34 more days of learning in reading, and 63 days in math, than traditional-school peers every year.

Meanwhile, a new study shows that NYC students at SUNY-approved charter schools are vastly outperforming their counterparts in neighboring traditional public schools. Naturally, the Legislature’s looking at reining in SUNY’s power to OK new charters and refusing to lift the state cap that prevents any new ones from opening in the city.

Throw more money at schools that falter; stop new public schools that excel from opening: That’s the prescription of the Democrats running this state.

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