CPR Working Paper Series No. 44

Estimating the Cost of an Adequate Education in New York

William Duncombe

February 2002

Abstract:  The New York State Board of Regents and Commissioner of Education have identified a set of clear performance standards for students in New York State that matches the knowledge and skills they will need to function successfully as productive citizens in the 21st century. To match these standards, the New York State Department of Education has developed new Regents Examinations, which all students will be required to pass to graduate from high school, and new examinations in 4th and 8th grades that serve as important intermediate checkpoints in assessing student progress. Justice Leland DeGrasse wrote in Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York (719 N.Y.S.2d 475, 150 Ed. Law Rep. 834, January 9, 2001) that, “[T]he court holds that the education provided New York City students is so deficient that it falls below the constitutional floor set by the Education Article of the New York Constitution.” (P. 4) He continued, “In the course of reforming the school finance system, a threshold task that must be performed by defendants is ascertaining, to the extent possible, the actual costs of providing a sound basic education in districts around the State.” (P. 115)

The objective of this study is to develop estimates of the costs of financing the achievement of higher standards. The key tools employed to estimate the cost of adequacy are education cost functions and cost of education indexes. The cost function approach uses statistical methods to extract from actual data the relationship between characteristics of students, the cost of living in an area, and the spending required to meet different performance standards. As long as recent history is a good predictor of the near future, the cost function approach should provide reasonably accurate estimates of the cost of adequacy. 

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