Full Board and Subcommittee on State Aid



Jean C. Stevens



Regents 2007-08 Conceptual Proposal on State Aid to School Districts



September 29, 2006



2 and 5








Issue for Action


Does the Board of Regents approve its conceptual 2007-08 State aid to schools proposal?


Reason(s) for Consideration


Review of policy.


Proposed Handling


This question will come before the Subcommittee on State Aid and the full Board at the October meeting.


Procedural History


The development of the Regents proposal began in February and has been discussed by the Subcommittee on State Aid and full Board of Regents in the ensuing months.  In September, the Board reviewed the conceptual proposal and it has been revised based on the comments provided by Board members. The Subcommittee Chair and SED staff also met with the Department’s Education Finance Advisory Group to discuss the conceptual proposal.  The conceptual proposal is before the Regents for approval in October.  An addendum to the conceptual proposal detailing the proposed funding recommendations will be embargoed and provided to the Regents prior to the October meeting.





Background Information


For the fourth year, this will carry forward a multi-year proposal to establish a foundation aid program that adjusts for differences in school district pupil needs and regional costs.  Its goal is to close the achievement gap in a manner that is adequate, effective and efficient.




VOTED:  That the Board of Regents approve the attached proposal as its conceptual proposal on State Aid to school districts for school year 2007-08.


Timetable for Implementation


Once the Regents approve their conceptual and detailed State Aid proposal, they will have the opportunity to advocate for its inclusion in the Executive’s budget proposal and in enactment of the Legislative budget signed into law by the Governor.  The Regents State Aid proposal will be updated as new data from school districts becomes available in late fall.


Attachment A

Regents Proposal on State Aid to School Districts

For School Year 2007-08



The Regents State Aid proposal for 2007-08 will request the resources and funding system needed to provide adequate resources through a State and local partnership so that all students have the opportunity to achieve State learning standards.  This is the fourth year the Regents have refined and advanced a multi-year proposal recommending transition to a foundation program based on the costs of successful educational programs. 


Statement of Need

This proposal pursues two Regents goals: to close the gap between actual and desired student achievement; and to ensure that public education resources are adequate and used by school districts effectively and efficiently.

The Regents Annual Report to the Legislature and Governor on the Educational Status of the State’s Schools (Chapter 655 Report) cites numerous examples of improvement in student achievement since 1996 when the Regents began to raise standards for all grade levels and imposed graduation requirements aligned with the new standards.  For example, the report notes[1]:

§       More eighth-graders are demonstrating that they have achieved the standards in mathematics.

§       The percentage of Black and Hispanic fourth-graders demonstrating proficiency increased by about 20 percentage points in both mathematics and English.

§       The percentage of graduates earning Regents diplomas increased from 42 to 57 percent.

§       Even in large urban districts that serve the largest percentages of poor and minority students, more students are earning Regents diplomas.

§       Between 1996–97 and 2003–04, the number of students scoring 55 or higher on the Regents English exam increased from 113,000 to 171,000.

While there have been many positive changes in the last 17 years since the Regents have reported on the educational progress of the State’s schools, one disturbing aspect of the report has remained the same.  The report continues to document a pattern of high student need, limited resources, and poor performance in many districts. Generally, these districts can be described as having high student needs relative to their capacity to raise revenues.  These high-need districts include the Big 5, 46 smaller districts with many of the characteristics of the Big 5, and 157 rural districts. Large gaps in performance exist between these high-need districts and low-need districts, those which both serve children from more affluent families and have generous local resources to draw on.

The results of the 2004 middle-level mathematics assessment illustrate these performance gaps between high- and low-need districts.  There were significant improvements in total public school results and in results for each Need/Resource Capacity Category of school districts and for each racial/ethnic group. Nevertheless, the performance gap between low- and high-need districts, such as New York City, remains.

§       While the percentage of New York City students who are proficient in middle-level mathematics increased to 42 percent, almost twice as many students in low-need districts were proficient.

We can relate this contrast to the resources available to schools in each group:

§       Let’s look first at the proportion of middle-level mathematics teachers who are not appropriately certified:  18 percent in New York City compared with 3 percent in the high-performing low-need districts.

§       In addition to having fewer qualified teachers than students in low-need districts, students in New York City attended school fewer days on average during the year:  161 compared with 172 days.

But the differences between New York City and the low-need districts do not stop there.  The average expenditure per pupil in New York City was over $2,000 less than that in low-need districts.

§       $12,896 per pupil in New York City compared with $15,076 on average in low-need districts in 2002-03.

§       The median teacher salary in New York City was $54,476 compared with $66,638 in low-need districts.

Similar relationships among performance, resources, and student need can be seen in comparisons between the performance of White students and that of Black and Hispanic students.  White students were about twice as likely as Black or Hispanic students to be proficient in middle-level mathematics.

§       71 percent of White students met the middle-level mathematics standards.

§       33 percent of Black students and 37 percent of Hispanic students met those standards.

The majority of Black and Hispanic students attend high-minority schools; the majority of White students attend low-minority schools. One reason that students in low-minority schools are more successful is that they spend more time in school. 

In addition, high-minority schools had a:

§       Higher teacher turnover rate (26 vs. 15 percent); and

§       Less experienced teachers (10 years vs. 12 years). 

The significance of these gaps in performance and resources between high- and low-minority schools is heightened by the fact that, while overall public school enrollment decreased by nearly 3,000 students between Fall 1998 and Fall 2003, enrollment in high-minority schools increased by 47,000 students.

Figure 1 shows that the State Aid increase school districts have experienced has had a relatively small impact on the share of total State Aid that each district category receives. Despite increases to many high-need school districts, the relative share of education revenues received by groups of high-need city school districts has increased by approximately one to three percentage points over the past nine years.  The relative share declined for high-need rural school districts (almost one percentage point), average need school districts (approximately four percentage points), and for low-need school districts (about half a percentage point). 




Four principles guide this Regents proposal. 

Adequacy—Effective distribution across all districts will ensure adequate resources for acceptable student achievement.

Equity The funding system must be fair for students and taxpayers.  State resources should be allocated on the basis of fiscal capacity, cost and student needs. The emphasis is placed on providing a set of inputs to educate students.

Accountability—The education system will measure outcomes and use those measures to ensure that financial resources are used effectively.  As part of the Regents goal that education resources will be used or maintained in the public interest, the Regents employ a two-prong strategy.  The Department will give greater flexibility to districts with acceptable student achievement and will work closely with districts not yet meeting State standards to ensure the most efficient and effective use of resources.

Balance—The State should balance stability in funding and targeting aid to close student achievement gaps.  It should drive aid based on current needs, and use hold-harmless provisions that provide stability.


Enact a Foundation Program 

The proposed Foundation Aid would consolidate approximately 30 existing aid programs and adjust the consolidated aid for regional cost differences and pupil needs.  It would identify an expected local contribution for each school district, based on ability to pay.  The foundation level is based on the cost of educating students in successful school districts.  An expected local contribution is calculated based on each district’s actual value per pupil, adjusted by income per pupil.  State Aid is calculated as the foundation cost less the expected local contribution.  The proposal would hold school districts harmless against loss for the group of aids combined into Foundation Aid and would be phased in over five years.

The foundation formula approach has several advantages.  It sets aid independent of any decisions by districts on how much to spend.  It also provides certainty to districts regarding how much funding they will receive.  And, most significantly, it explicitly links school funding to the cost of educating children and drives dollars where they are most needed. 

The foundation formula has four components:



Two components of the foundation equation have been updated with more recent data.


The Regional Cost Index


In order to adjust for geographic variations in the cost of educational resources, the Regional Cost Index was generated following a methodology similar to one developed by Rothstein and Smith[2] for the state of Oregon.   This involved the use of a statewide index based on median salaries in professional occupations that require similar credentials to that of positions in the education field.  In particular, these titles represented categories for which employment at the entry level typically requires a bachelor’s degree. The previous Regional Cost Index was based on 63 occupational titles. Fifty-nine titles were used for this edition of the Regional Cost Index.  Education-related titles were excluded in order to ensure that this index be entirely a measure of labor market costs, and not be subject to the tastes or control of districts.  Therefore, we sought to measure genuine labor market costs, not the results of districts’ decisions to hire especially high quality teachers, or to influence the index value in later years by choosing to pay more for staff.  By basing the index on the wages earned in the labor market by professionals with similar skills, we have created a measure of costs in the sector of the labor market in which districts compete for teachers and staff, in each region of the State.  Since personnel salaries and benefits make up the vast majority of costs faced by school districts, the Regional Cost Index allows for an individual to compare the buying power of the educational dollar in different labor force regions of the State.


The Foundation Amount


The Regents propose a Foundation Aid program, with a foundation amount based on the average per pupil cost of general education instruction in successful school districts. Empirical estimates of the cost of an adequate education typically begin by investigating districts that are already achieving a desired state of academic performance; 465 districts were identified in the update of the successful districts study.   These districts had, on average, 80 percent or more of their students passing seven State examinations, two at the elementary level and five at the high school level, for three years in a row.


Special Education Funding

The Regents explored options for improving the funding of special education in a series of meetings around the State with educators and the public.  Participants considered how funding can best support program goals of improved student achievement and education of students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment.  Three options were discussed that provide special education funding separate from the foundation program and respond to policy concerns voiced at public forums on special education funding.

Current laws provide school districts State Aid to help meet the excess costs of educating students with disabilities--that is, districts receive Operating Aid for each student including those with disabilities, and, in addition, Excess Cost Aid for those costs that are above and beyond the costs of a non-disabled student.  In addition, the laws provide:

§       That Excess Cost Aid varies with differences in school district wealth and requires a substantial local contribution;

§       That Excess Cost Aid is based on the average spending on all students in the district but provide more aid for higher levels of service to students with disabilities;

§       A substantial minimum aid, regardless of wealth;

§       Extra aid for high-cost students and students integrated with their nondisabled peers; and

§       Aid for students with disabilities placed in approved nonpublic special education schools.

The proposed approach maintains a separate special education funding stream based on a count of students with disabilities.  It aligns that funding with the Regents proposal for foundation aid for general education instruction.

The general direction of the proposal is this: Calculate the foundation amount for general education students (e.g., General Education Foundation Cost x Pupil Needs Index x Regional Cost Index). This would be divided into an expected local contribution and State Aid to provide support for general education instruction, as it was proposed in the 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07 Regents State Aid proposals.

For Public Excess Cost Aid, that same foundation amount would be multiplied by a single weighting for all classified students with disabilities to determine an expense upon which to base excess cost aid per pupil.  Thus, each student with a disability would generate operating aid based on a portion of the general education foundation amount and, separately, excess cost aid based on a portion of the special education weighted general education foundation amount. The Excess Cost Aid would be tied to the cost of education in successful districts by basing it on the foundation amount from our updated successful school district study. High-cost Aid and Private Excess Cost Aid would be continued separately. The Regents recommend current-year aid for new high-cost students with disabilities.

The following is an example of this proposal in a hypothetical school district. The amounts used are made up and are intended to illustrate how the formula might work and not its specific details. 

Foundation Aid.  Calculate the foundation amount for general education students (e.g., $1,000 x Pupil Needs Index x Regional Cost Index or by example a district with moderate pupil needs and moderate costs, $1,000 x 1.5 x 1.2 = $1,800/pupil). Divide this into State Aid and an expected local contribution to provide State support for general education instruction.  For this hypothetical school district, assume the expected local contribution was $1,000 per pupil and State Aid was $800 per pupil.

Excess Cost Aid.  Take the same foundation amount ($1,800/pupil) multiplied by a single weighting for all classified students with disabilities to determine excess cost expense per pupil. (For example, $1,800 x 1.1 = $1,980 of excess cost expense per special education pupil.)  A State and local share of this expense can then be calculated.  Thus, each student with a disability would generate Foundation Aid and Excess Cost Aid.


Regional Services for the Big Five City School Districts

This proposal recommends that the existing practice of excluding large city school districts from accessing BOCES services be discontinued.  It recommends that the large four city school districts (Yonkers, Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo) be given the authority to contract with neighboring BOCES for services in critical service areas that are strong in BOCES and weak in the city district. 

A program should be established authorizing the Big Four city school districts to participate in BOCES and purchase services from BOCES.   A corresponding increase in aid should be provided to the New York City school district to allow it to fund similar programs within the city district without BOCES.  Such regional services can include:

§       Arts and cultural programs for students;

§       Career and technical programs for students;

§       Alternative education for students, including those who are in secure and non-secure detention centers within the city boundaries;

§       Staff development as part of a district required professional development plan and annual professional performance review;

§       Technology services provided through BOCES;

§       Regional teacher certification; and

§       For the 2007-08 school year, planning and development activities necessary to implement these programs in the following school year.


Funding Early Childhood Education

The Benefits of Quality Early Childhood Education

The use of pre-kindergarten as a cornerstone program to building strong statewide early childhood programs is a high priority for the Board of Regents and school districts.  It is a well-researched and effective educational strategy for closing the achievement gap.  Research has shown that children who participate in quality pre-kindergarten programs have less need for special education and remediation throughout schooling and earn more and are incarcerated less in adulthood.  The investment in pre-kindergarten is a cost-effective strategy that pays dividends to society and to the children who participate.  The New York State Governor and Legislature made the decision to move toward the provision of universal pre-kindergarten education in 1997.

While much of the focus on strengthening early childhood has concerned the education of three- and four-year olds, the provision of full-day programs to kindergarten pupils is also a statewide policy concern.  Estimates are that approximately 20,000 students are in half-day programs and 14,000 pupils are not enrolled in full-day kindergarten.  If quality early childhood education is to be successful, its provision must continue beyond pre-kindergarten, into full-day kindergarten and successfully transition students into quality elementary school programs.

The Regents Goal

The Regents recommend that all young children have access to quality early childhood programs from age three on and that the Governor and Legislature continue to phase in State support for such programs.

Regents Policy

In January 2006, the Regents adopted a policy on early childhood education.  It recommends:

--        Statutory authorization for voluntary, statewide universal pre-kindergarten for three- and four-year olds.

--        Local education agencies continued collaboration with community-based programs as required by current law.

--        Combined funding streams for universal pre-kindergarten, targeted pre-kindergarten and supplemental pre-kindergarten programs.

--        A consistent funding stream for universal pre-kindergarten through a foundation State Aid approach similar to the Regents proposal for funding kindergarten through grade 12.

Funding Issues

The Governor and Legislature must ensure that the program is available to all districts and four-year-olds.  For pre-kindergarten to become an integral part of a pre-kindergarten through grade 12 public school system, action regarding the funding mechanism is as important as the level of funding.  The Regents have grappled with two important issues.

First, there is a need to streamline and focus funding to make the most of public resources.  The program has been implemented as an experimental grant program for decades.   In 1997, the Governor and Legislature added a second grant program known as Universal Pre-kindergarten.  In 2006, the Governor and Legislature added a third grant program in addition to the first two.  Now with three separate grant programs, each with their own funding components and distribution, the Regents recognize that the grant process, although it has been a successful way to phase in the program, may not be the most effective way to sustain the program for the future. 

Second, how should the Governor and Legislature phase in quality early childhood education from age three on? Specifically, the Regents considered whether to phase in this program as a program targeted to at-risk children or to all children.  Programs designed to serve all children ensure access. Research shows that targeted programs do not close the achievement gap as at-risk children cross many socio-economic groups (Garcia, 2005). Programs targeted for at-risk students are also more likely to be frozen, cut or eliminated.  Another disadvantage is that programs targeted for at-risk children often lack the participation of other children that may be crucial to the educational process.

The advantage of phasing in quality early childhood education for all students regardless of risk status is that the program will have the support and participation of all.  The disadvantage is that programs for all are more costly.  Further, Regents discussion of these and other policy issues is planned to occur in the near future.

Regents Recommendations for 2007-08

The Regents goal is to make funding available to allow school districts to adopt programs to make pre-kindergarten programs universally available.  The Regents recommend that funding for early childhood education be streamlined into one funding stream and that the distribution of funding be equalized on the basis of school district fiscal capacity and the level of student need.  Funding for early childhood education should be separate from but aligned with funding for kindergarten through grade 12.  Funding for pre-kindergarten through grade 12 should provide school districts with the resources needed to give all students the opportunity to meet State learning standards. 

Pending further discussion of outstanding policy issues by the Regents, funding should be phased in over time to provide Early Childhood Foundation Aid for all three- and four-year olds.  In addition, the Regents recommend that aid for instructional materials be revised to allow aid for those that promote early learning, as provided for in the following section.

To address the need for full-day kindergarten programs, the Regents recommend planning grants for the additional classrooms needed.  Beginning in 2008-09, the Regents will advance recommendations to phase in the funding for all kindergarteners to participate in full-day programs over a three-year period.


Provide Flexibility in Aid for Instructional Materials

Although the Governor and Legislature have provided support for instructional materials in the form of Textbook Aid and Software Aid, changes in education suggest the need for commensurate changes in State Aid. 

First, instructional materials are increasingly available electronically so Textbook Aid was recently amended to allow textbooks in electronic format to be eligible for aid.  This change blurs the distinction between Textbook Aid and Software Aid. 

Second, schools throughout the State are designing science and mathematics curricula to provide an inquiry-centered instructional approach that involves the use of relevant equipment, professional materials, supplies and science kits or mathematics manipulatives, rather than textbooks.  Such experiential learning has helped students master State standards and has supported State and national efforts to strengthen student preparation in mathematics and science.

Textbooks may not be the most appropriate instructional materials for kindergarteners.  Instead of textbooks, early childhood educators use developmentally appropriate educational games and hands-on manipulatives that promote early literacy, numeracy, scientific inquiry, and social learning.


The Regents recommend that the Governor and Legislature consolidate Textbook Aid and Software Aid into a new Instructional Materials Aid.   The definition of eligible instructional materials should include equipment, materials, supplies, kits and other manipulatives used in the instruction of K-12 mathematics and science, and for kindergarten only, educationally-based materials such as developmentally appropriate games and hands-on manipulatives that promote early learning.



Increase Library Materials Aid to

Close the Gap in Student Achievement


The Benefits of Strong School Library Collections

The impact of school libraries with strong print collections on raising student performance levels is well researched.   Studies of more than 3,300 schools across the country demonstrate that, while there are many characteristics that define a strong school library, the number of books per student is one very significant factor. [3]

Additional research has found that access to educational resources outside of school varies considerably by socio-economic background and contributes to lasting achievement differences of children.[4]  Some of these studies focused on the access of children to library books and found “dramatic disparities in three communities, ranging from high to low income.”[5]  The high income community had significantly more library books for children to interact with.

High performing schools have school libraries with significantly more resources per student than low performing schools.   The investment in school library materials is a cost-effective strategy for addressing the persistent pattern of high student need, limited resources, and poor performance in many districts.  

New York State School Library Funding Issues

School library collections are funded in part by State school Library Materials Aid which has been $6.00 per pupil since 1998, despite a 30 percent increase in the cost of the average library book since 1999 to $21.60.  Currently, school districts in New York State spend[6] on average approximately $13 per pupil on school library materials. However individual district expenditures vary greatly, with high-need districts spending the least.  Successful school districts, identified for the development of the Regents State Aid Foundation Proposal, which have an average of 80 percent of their students passing seven State tests over three years, spend on average $17 per pupil for school library materials.   Large gaps in performance between high-need and low-need districts are well documented[7].  The result is that students who would most benefit from a strong school library with adequate collections are the least likely to have access to such resources.

The recent Court of Appeals decision in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case regarding State funding of public schools determined adequate school libraries to be part of a “sound, basic education.”  The Court urged the Governor and Legislature to provide funding for up-to-date school libraries as one important means of achieving equitable access to a basic education for students in low-income communities.

The Regents have made closing the gap in achievement a priority.   The Governor and Legislature must ensure that youngsters in high-need districts, which are most dependent upon State school Library Materials Aid, have access to school libraries with adequate collections.

Funding Recommendation

The Regents recommend that school Library Materials Aid be increased to enable school libraries in high-need communities to provide a comparable level of collections to their students as those in successful school districts. 


Enact a Simplified Cost Allowance for State Building Aid

The Regents recommend that the Governor and Legislature simplify the maximum cost allowance formula for State Building Aid. The law sets a reasonable cost ceiling for all capital projects. However, the current system is an overly complex and inefficient process that, in some cases, forces a district to compromise the desired educational goal in order to achieve maximum reimbursement.  The Regents propose that the State calculate a cost allowance based on a certain allotment of space and cost per enrolled pupil, according to the following formula:

Cost Allowance = Projected Pupil Enrollment x Allowed Square Feet

Per Pupil x Allowed Cost per Square Foot x Regional Cost Factor

The current New York State Labor Department Cost Index would be used to update allowable costs on a monthly basis. Unlike the Regents Regional Cost Index proposed for Foundation Aid, which is fundamentally a professional wage index, the New York State Labor Department cost index is based solely on the wages of three major occupational titles critical to the building industry.  A simplified formula would offer greater educational flexibility, ease of understanding and transparency.


Strengthen Accountability for the Use of Funds  


Since 1996 when the learning standards were implemented, the number of high school graduates has increased by more than 16,000 students.  During that time, school expenditures have increased by more than 60 percent.  How do we know if resources are well spent?  How can we accelerate the progress that is occurring? 

The New York State Education Department has developed a school accountability system which is a nationally recognized model for student performance accountability.  Approximately 70 percent of New York State schools are making adequate yearly progress.  The other 30 percent of schools need varying levels of support and assistance to close the gaps.  These low performing schools are the focus of intensive State efforts.

As schools have improved or closed, the system has resulted in fewer schools identified for improvement.  The progress that has occurred can be accelerated and improved with more State oversight, support for school-by-school reform and tools that process data and aid and help school districts monitor their financial condition.   Attachment B describes the current accountability system and the details for making a good system an excellent one.  Funds to implement the proposals that are described are requested as part of the Department’s budget request.

Attachment B


Accountability for Student Success


The Current System


New York State’s public reporting and accountability system establishes a framework that recognizes the dual responsibility of local districts and the State to ensure that public dollars are spent effectively to provide all students the opportunity for a sound basic education.  New York’s public reporting and accountability system is comprehensive, rigorous and successful.  The system has resulted, for example, in improvements in English language arts and mathematics achievement since 1999 and in a decline of the number of extremely low-performing schools in the State.  In 2005-06, 84 percent of New York State schools were in good standing under the accountability system.  The system responsible for this progress identifies low-performing schools and districts and imposes a series of graduated actions at the local level and interventions at the State level to improve student achievement.  Where results do not improve, consequences follow.


The Commissioner determines annually whether every public school and district is making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in English language arts, mathematics, elementary-middle level science and graduation rates.   When a school fails to make AYP for two consecutive years on the same accountability measure, the school is identified as a School Requiring Academic Progress (“SRAP”) and, if the school receives Title I, Part A funds, as a School in Need of Improvement (“SINI”). Among other things, these schools must develop a two-year school improvement plan that is annually updated.  In addition, all schools in improvement status under Title 1 are required to offer parents the option to transfer their children to other public schools within the district.  If a school is not identified as requiring academic progress or as in need of improvement but fails to achieve the State standards in English language arts or mathematics, the district must develop a Local Assistance Plan for the school.


Once the Commissioner identifies schools as needing improvement, a series of increasingly rigorous sanctions is triggered. In each subsequent year that the school does not make AYP on the accountability measure for which it was identified, it advances to the next accountability level.  Schools in need of improvement that subsequently fail to make AYP in their area(s) of identification must offer eligible students supplemental educational services.  School districts are required to initiate one of several corrective actions for schools that fail for two years subsequent to identification to make AYP in their area(s) of identification.  The Commissioner requires the district to restructure or close schools that have failed to make AYP for four years following identification.


The Commissioner also identifies for registration review schools that are farthest from State standards and most in need of improvement.  Once identified for registration review, the Commissioner assigns the school performance targets that it is expected to achieve within a specified time or risk having its registration revoked.  After being placed under registration review, the school is visited by an external team that audits planning, resources and programs.  The school uses the report of the external team to develop a comprehensive education plan, and the district uses this report to develop a corrective action plan.


Local school districts, regional school support centers, distinguished educators, and SED staff provide schools that are identified for improvement with additional assistance and support.  In general, the State Education Department itself focuses its efforts on Schools Under Registration Review (“SURR schools”). Regional school support centers and distinguished educators provide critical support to schools designated as SURR and SINI.


In addition to individual school accountability, the State Education Department is also responsible for determining whether each school district achieves AYP.  As in the case of schools, school districts that fail to make AYP for two consecutive years are designated as Districts In Need of Improvement (“DINI”) and must develop district-wide improvement plans. Pursuant to the NCLB, the Commissioner must take corrective action against a district that receives Title I funds if it fails to make AYP for two years after being designated as needing improvement.


As part of the Department’s process of determining the performance status of schools and school districts, the Commissioner began, after the 2003-04 school year, to designate schools and districts that meet specific criteria as high-performing. Starting with the 2004-05 school year, certain schools and districts were designated as rapidly improving.


Strengthening Accountability

The Regents have advanced a budget request to strengthen accountability.  Its goals are to accelerate progress in increasing high school completions, eliminate the student achievement gap and ensure that resources are well spent.  The State should:

§       Engage schools in efforts to increase graduation rates;

§       Hold schools accountable through monitoring, oversight and audits

§       Improve tools for school oversight; and

§       Prevent fraud, waste and abuse of school resources;


Increase Graduation Rates

   Increase student performance growth with academic intervention teams and distinguished educators ($13 million, first year; $39 million full implementation).

The Commissioner will assign an academic intervention team to each school and district in the State that is identified for corrective action.  The purpose of the intervention teams is to build capacity of local educational agencies to successfully undertake corrective actions that result in improved student achievement consistent with State standards.  Teams made up of administrators and content experts will provide targeted technical assistance in at-risk schools.


Hold Schools Accountable

   Provide program staff to meet monitoring requirements for federal and State funding and to drive improvement ($3.1 million).

In May 2006, Education Secretary Spellings issued a policy letter expressing concern that state education agencies are not sufficiently monitoring schools to ensure compliance with Supplemental Education Services (SES) and School Choice requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. This policy letter followed federal audit exceptions concerning Title I funds. The federal government expects states to significantly increase their monitoring of schools to ensure both fiscal and program compliance.  In order to meet new federal program monitoring expectations and ensure the flow of federal education funds, the SED will need to increase staff to conduct on-site program and fiscal monitoring of schools each year.  This in turn will leverage State funding in support of school improvement.


Improving Tools for School Oversight  

   Develop an Early Warning System to prevent fiscal stress ($300,000 first year; $2.7 million full implementation).

An Early Warning System will help the public to know their school’s financial status, will help school boards engage in long-range financial planning and will allow State Education Department staff to anticipate and help prevent school district fiscal stress.

   Develop a State Aid Management System to streamline school funding ($5 million, first year; $15 million full implementation).

The development of a unified State Aid Management System will address shortcomings of the current system by providing: a single point of access to State Aid data; the means for enabling the Department to collect information from school districts across the State more effectively; the capability to analyze districts’ fiscal needs; a streamlined method for distributing funds to school districts; and modeling capability during the annual State budget process to inform and assist the Executive and the State Legislature as they address State education funding.


Prevent Fraud, Waste and Abuse

   Assist school district officials with implementing internal controls to prevent fraud, waste and abuse of district resources ($1.0 million).

Additional staff are requested to provide expert support and monitoring for fiscally stressed school districts.  They will help the State ensure that fiscally stressed school districts implement a plan to restore themselves to sound financial condition, that districts maximize revenues they are entitled to, and that they use resources in a manner to maximize student achievement gains.  Staff will also ensure that school districts have in place procedures that comply with laws concerning the fiscal oversight of school districts.


      Provide audit staff to help ensure resources are used effectively and that data are accurate and reliable ($2.6 million).

The Department will use a risk-based system to focus additional audits on districts with indicators of poor student performance and fiscal stress, or those where concerns have been expressed.  Such audits will complement audits conducted by the Office of the State Comptroller of school districts, BOCES and charter schools. In addition, some of the audit resources will be devoted to conducting random audits of school districts that have no known problems or issues.  Audits will assess the adequacy of the school district's management and focus on seven key areas: governance and planning, accounting and reporting, revenue and cash management, purchasing and expenditures, facilities and equipment, student services, and student-related data.


Resources requested to strengthen school accountability will be presented in the State Education Department’s budget request, rather than in the Regents State Aid proposal.  Requested resources are $25 million in 2007-08, $25.6 million in 2008-09, $26.2 million in 2009-10.  Over these three years, a total of $76.8 million will provide the tools and oversight to substantially strengthen school accountability in New York State.



End Notes


[1] The Chapter 655 Report.  A Report to the Governor and the Legislature on the Educational Status of the State's Schools, New York State Education Department, Albany, NY, July 2005.

[2] This methodology is described in Rothstein, R., & Smith (1997).  Adjusting Oregon Education Expenditures for Regional Cost Differences: A Feasibility Study.  Sacramento, CA: Management Analysis & Planning Associates, L.L.C.

[3] Lance, Keith Curry; Marcia J Rodney; and Christine Hamilton-Pennell.  Powerful Libraries Make Powerful Learners: The Illinois Study.  Canton, Illinois: Illinois School Library Media Association, 2005.  online at:

Smith, Ester. Texas School Libraries: Standards, Resources, Services, and Students’ Performance. Austin, TX: EGS Research & Consulting, 2001. Available at:

Baxter, Susan J. and Ann Walker Smalley. Check It Out!: The Results of the School Library Media Program Census. Final Report. Saint Paul, MN: Metronet, 2003. available at:

[4] Entwistle, D., Alexander, K., & Olson, L.S. (1997). Children, schools, and inequality. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Neuman, S.B. (1999a). Books make a difference: A study of access to literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 34, 286-311.

Mcquillan, J. (1998). The literacy crisis. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

[5] Krashen, S. (1998). Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership, 54,18-22.

Smith, C., Constantino, B., & Krashen, S. (1996). Differences in print environment for children in Beverly Hills, Compton, and Watts. Emergency Librarian, 24(4), 8-10.

[6] Data are from ST-3 file codes A2610.46 (school library A/V loan program) and A2610.45 (supplies and materials). Currently, only A2610.46 expenses are eligible for reimbursement through Library Materials Aid.  The intent of this conceptual direction is for the State to aid the .45 expenses.

[7] The Chapter 655 Report.  A Report to the Governor and the Legislature on the Educational Status of the State's Schools, New York State Education Department, Albany, NY, July 2005.



10/19/2006 4:06 PM