As the new school year begins, a report today from New York State United Teachers highlights gains made by students in the last two decades and cautioning that funding cuts in recent years and the state’s 2 percent annual cap on the property-tax levy could threaten the advances.
“No one knows better than those in engaged in education how significant the challenges are and how urgently the achievement gap must be addressed to further improve public education at all levels and for all students,” union President Richard C. Iannuzzi said in a statement about the report. “At the same time, public discourse about New York’s public schools and colleges can — and should — recognize that New York’s public education system is among the best in the nation.”
The roughly 700 school districts in New York have $1.1 billion less in operating aid this year than they did four years ago. There are about 35,000 fewer teachers and paraprofessionals in classrooms this year than in 2008-09. Public higher education funding—for the State University of New York and the City University of New York— is $1.7 billion less than in 2008-09, NYSUT said.
“Meanwhile, the property tax cap enacted in 2011 is undemocratically restaining local communities’ ability to invest in programs essential to continued student success. Clearly, New York has reached a critical juncture if the Empire State is to retain its place among the top tier of states’ education systems—particularly when this report and others show that the single biggest factor linked to student under-achievement is, in one word: poverty,” the report said.
These are some of the gains, according to the report:
—The graduation rate increased 19.9 points from 1999 to 2009. Thirty-one percent of districts—195—had graduation rates of 90 percent or more in June 2011.
—The percentage of students graduating with a Regents diploma reached 66.7 percent in June 2011, nearly double the 35 percent of students who earned Regents diplomas in 1988-89. Eighty-seven school districts reported that at least 90 percent of their graduates earn Regents diplomas.
—New York ranked second in the nation with 26.5 percent of graduates participating in the Advanced Placement program and scoring at least a 3 on the exams. The number of black and Hispanic students taking AP tests has more than doubled in the past decade.
Nysut Taking Stock Report 120906