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Comparison of School Aid Reform Proposals for New York State

William Duncombe, John Yinger

April 2004

John M. Yinger

John M. Yinger


In June, 2003 the New York State Court of Appeals altered the education-finance landscape in New York with its ruling in Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. New York. This ruling called for “[r]eforms to the current system of financing school” designed to ensure “that every school in New York City would have resources necessary for providing the opportunity for a sound basic education.”

The ruling addressed a wide range of issues, but emphasized several key points from the standpoint of school finance reform:

  1. the school finance system is the responsibility of the state government;
  2. the standard set by the Court is a “meaningful high school education;”
  3. reforms of the current system should provide students for the opportunity to reach this standard; and
  4. the opportunity for a sound basic education must “be placed within the reach of all students,” including those students that are disadvantaged because of their socio-economic circumstances.

In other words, the Court was requiring the state to develop a school finance system to provide students the opportunity to graduate from high school with a meaningful education. In developing this system, the state confronts a number of choices.

The objectives of the first part of this comparison are to discuss the key issues that are involved in developing an operating aid formula to support a performance adequacy standard. We review some of the methods that are available for estimating the cost of an adequate education, and highlight design choices in developing an operating aid system.

Following the narrative discussion of design choices are detailed comparisons of five different school reform proposals:

  1. Syracuse University proposal,
  2. Midstate School Finance Consortium proposal,
  3. the Regents Proposal on School Aid for 2004-05,
  4. the Campaign for Fiscal Equity “Adequacy Study”, and state aid proposal, and
  5. the Final Report of the Commission on Education Reform (Zarb Commission).

These proposals for selected for review, because they either have received significant attention in the media, and/or provide a detailed recommendation on costing out adequacy and designing an operating aid formula. Over the last several years a number of other aid reform proposals for New York have also been developed. These were deemed similar enough to the proposals we have considered or not of sufficient detail to provide a meaningful comparison.