Councilman Paul Vallone and the Bayside High School Parent Teacher Association and fellow elected officials rallied outside the school Friday morning calling on the City Department of Education (DOE) to provide 100 percent equitable funding.
Congresswoman Grace Meng, state Senator John Liu, and state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein joined Vallone across the street from the entrance of Bayside High School, located at 32-24 Corporal Kennedy St., which has only received 83 percent to 90 percent of the funding amount expected based upon the DOE’s Fair Student Funding (FSF) formula.
The school faces an over $3 million shortfall this year, according to Vallone.
“Strides to bring Bayside High School fair funding are critical to ensure educators have the resources they need to contribute to continue student success and high graduation rates,” Vallone said. “I applaud the PTA on their call for true equity and I will continue advocacy efforts at City Hall.”
According to the FSF formula, Bayside High School was slated to receive $17.47 million for the 2020-21 school year but instead got only $14.3 million. The chronic low funding resulted in the school cutting the career and technical programs (CTE), which is a significant draw for the 12,000 annual applicants. The PTA added that the school is the largest CTE school in the DOE.
David Solano, vice president of the Friends of Bayside High School, an alumni group that provides internship and other opportunities, said schools that do the hard work of building programs to attract students, like Bayside, are denied program funding that the DOE promised.
“With 13,000 applications, we get no CTE (Career & Technical Education) portfolio funding, about $300 per student, for any of our six NYS approved programs while the Specialized High Schools and highly selective schools like Townsend Harris get $1,000.00 per student — just for being selective? Bayside takes all types of learners from three boroughs,” Solano said.
Paul DiBenedetto, president of the Bayside High PTA, said that while funding is supposed to be based on the needs of each student, the DOE discounts the percentage of Fair Student Funding it provides to schools.
“Our research shows a tale of two systems: over 130 small high schools receive 100 percent to 128 percent of their amount due. Other schools get 90 percent to 99 percent of theirs. The lowest funded are the large schools like Bayside — no schools get lower funding in terms of real dollars per student than Bayside,” DiBenedetto said.
DiBenedetto added, “The school has been unable to hire over 20 teachers needed to replace retirements and properly staff our programs. Now the DOE is demanding cuts to guidance and other supports for our students, 30 percent of whom are special education or English Language Learners.”
DiBenedetto said their efforts to engage the DOE have been respectful, but met with false responses, silence and disrespect.
“Literally thousands of residents and parents contacted the DOE to provide equitable funding, but they refuse to listen. Isn’t this DOE supposed to be all about community and parent involvement?” DiBenedetto said. “The school graduates 97 to 98 percent of its kids each year with almost all going straight to colleges. Is the DOE penalizing excellence?”
According to DiBenedetto, it may be time to take the decisions out of the DOE’s hands and into the courts.
“As parents, we have a vested interest in seeing our children receive the same funding as other children. As community residents, we have a vested interest in seeing this school continue to flourish,” DiBenedetto said. “If the DOE continues on this path, the parents and community will seek legal redress of their capricious funding patterns. It’s obvious favoritism.”
In a statement to QNS, Danielle Filson, deputy press secretary of the DOE, said the administration has added over $5 billion in education funding, including raising the Fair Student Funding percentage at Bayside High School as well as adding Career Technical Education and College Access funding to the school.
“The school has six CTE programs, and no programs are being cut. We’ll be able to fund all schools at 100 percent Fair Student Funding when the State pays the $1.1 billion it owes the city,” Filson said.
There is a $750 million shortfall in Fair Student Funding as a result of the state’s failure to abide by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement. The DOE has invested over $1 billion cumulatively since FY 2015 to raise the Fair Student Funding floor from 81 percent to 90 percent for all schools, according to the DOE.
Bayside High School received an additional $250K in funding this month based on increases in student enrollment. The Executive Superintendent and Superintendent have been in touch with the PTA and will be attending the next PTA Executive Board meeting and SLT meeting, the DOE said.