New York City may spend more per student than most districts in the United States ($19,597 during the 2009-2010 school year according to the U.S. Census), but one education scholar’s number crunching shows that the city’s schools are underfunded.
Bruce D. Baker, a Rutgers education professor, posted Class Size & Funding Inequity in NY State & NY City, on his personal blog, School Finance 101, on May 9, 2013. (Thank you to Ajay Srikanth, my former classmate, for pointing me to it). Baker argues that school districts with high poverty need more dollars per student because poor students tend to have greater needs. Instead, school districts with high poverty have lower funding per student. Check out this graph.
The result of this underfunding, according to Baker, is that class size is ballooning in poor districts, such as New York City. Baker acknowledges the controversy over whether reducing class sizes actually improves student outcomes, but asserts that classes should not be allowed to increase beyond 30 kids in a class in high poverty districts.
“From a simple fairness standpoint, it makes little sense that children in the top 20% districts by wealth and income should have access to such smaller classes than children in New York City,” Baker writes.
I have a friend who teaches high school English in the New York City public schools. Each of her classes is well north of 30. “How can I be a good teacher to 37 kids?” she asked me a few months ago with tears welling up in her eyes.