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Safeguarding Sound Basic Education Project - Recommendations & Next Steps

Though the toughest economic times brought on by the 2008 recession may be behind us, their effects on the educational opportunities of students, particularly those from low-income households, are still strongly felt. Slight state funding increases over the past year have done little to fill the vast resource gaps that were identified by the courts in the CFE litigation and then exacerbated by deep funding reductions in the wake of the recession. Limited budgets have forced schools to stretch inadequate resources to cover even more requirements, with the result that new initiatives are being implemented perfunctorily and ineffectively, if at all.
 
The enacted budget for 2013-14, while it contains another small funding increase, does not address the issue of constitutional compliance. CEE Analysis of the 2013-2014 Budget.
 
In order to safeguard students’ right to a sound basic education under current conditions and to sustain these resources even in times of economic downturn, the Campaign has determined that the following strategic actions must be undertaken.
 

  1. Identify the essential resources, services, and supports that must be available to all students in order to meet state requirements and to comply with the constitution. 

  1. Revise state regulations to ensure that the “minimums” that they articulate reflect adequate levels of constitutionally mandated services and identify and eliminate special waivers and exceptions to statewide regulations that lower standards only for New York City, strictly because of financial considerations.

  1. Create state and local accountability mechanisms for sound basic education and ensure enforcement by the state education department and other entities and the means and capacity to carry them out.
  2. Reduce inefficiency and lessen costs by a) eliminating unnecessary mandates and revamping ineffective statutory and regulatory requirements and b) providing schools and school districts clear guidance on how to maximize cost efficiency and cost effectiveness while safeguarding constitutional educational services.

  1. Develop an up-to-date cost-study methodology based on actual costs of providing all students with the essential resources for a sound basic education in a cost-effective manner that properly weighs student needs and concentration-of-poverty factors, and call on the state to conduct a current cost study in accordance with this methodology.

  1. Revise the state funding formulas to ensure that “state aid should increase where need is high and local ability to pay is low” and that all schools will receive the resources they need to provide all students the opportunity for a sound basic education—without arbitrary caps and hold-harmless clauses.


The Campaign has recommended that the state undertake much of this work, but the state’s schoolchildren cannot wait any longer for them to do so. In the coming years, the Safeguarding Sound Basic Education project will undertake necessary research and policy development on each of the issues above to provide a road map for state compliance. We hope in this way to influence the policy debate and to move this agenda ahead expeditiously.