It is impossible not to feel the pangs of New York’s school districts as they cope once again with the prospect of reduced levels of state aid, a byproduct of the Great Recession whose aftereffects linger. The so-called “gap elimination adjustment” is, as the superintendent of the Depew Union Free School District observed, a nice term that really means the state is balancing its budget in part by sending less money to the state’s schools. There’s no disputing that.
The problem is that there is another side to the story and, as painful as the school districts’ plight is, it undergirds a more persuasive argument, namely that New Yorkers already pay more per student than residents of any other state for results that are largely middling. It’s true that the relatively small increases in state aid to education are putting some programs – and jobs – at risk, but it’s also true that spending even more is unlikely to make the schools notably better than they have been all along.
What is more, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo noted in a meeting with The News editorial board, what the schools really want is to return to the high point of their funding, from five years ago.