Is Governor Pataki really using the Standard & Poor’s study as the basis for his proposed Sound Basic Education Plan?

May 2004.

In presenting his “5-Year Sound Basic Education Financing Plan,” Governor Pataki claimed that it was based on the Standard and Poor’s estimate of the Resource Gap between current school district education spending and the projected amount needed to attain the Regents’ Education Standards. This is one of the four educational standards for which Standard and Poor’s attempted to estimate the resource gap for the state as a whole and for selected districts.

The Governor claimed that the Resource Gap under this scenario was as follows:

Total State New York City Rest of State
Resource Gap $2.5 Billion $1.9 Billion $0.6 billion

He claims that this is the result of using Jay Chambers’ Geographic Cost of Education Index and pupil weightings for children in poverty (.35 additional weighting) and for Limited English Proficiency (.2 additional weighting). These latter weightings are the weightings suggested for these factors by Standard and Poor’s based on its researchers’ review of the relevant academic literature.  Thus these weightings are an input into the Standard and Poor’s calculations NOT the result of those calculations.

According to the Standard and Poor’s report and model, when you use the assumptions pecified by the Governor and Standard and Poor’s suggested weighting for Special Education pupils (1.1), the total statewide Resource Gap when you take all districts into consideration is $6.03 Billion.  When you look at only the half of the relevant districts that spend the least (a calculation that Standard and Poor’s calls a Cost Effectiveness adjustment) this Gap is $2.45 billion. For New York City, the estimated Gap under these assumptions is $1.93 billion. The difference between these two figures, the “Rest of the State” residual referred to by the Governor, is $0.52 billion. This is a minor point, but even in their rounding, the Governor’s staff can’t resist jimmying the numbers.

The important point is that, while the Governor claims this standard is the basis for his plan, he then proposes to increase state aid in a way that is totally inconsistent with this Standard & Poor’s analysis. His proposed increase in state aid for New York City is 116% of this identified Gap but his proposed increase in state aid for the Rest of the State is 383% of the projected Gap for these districts.  When using the actual Standard and Poor’s numbers, these differences are even starker: 114% vs. 442%, as the following table indicates.

Total State New York City Rest of State
Standard & Poor’s Gap Numbers (in billions) $2.45 Billion $1.93 Billion $0.52 Billion
Governor’s rendition of the Standard and Poor’s Gap Numbers (in billions) $2.5 Bilion $1.9 Billion $0.6 Billion
Governor’s Proposed Increase in State Aid (in billions) $4.5 Billion $2.2 Billion $2.3 Billion
Governor’s proposed state aid increase as a percent of the resource gap that he is purporting to close 180% 116% 383%
Governor’s proposed state aid increase as a percent of the actual resource gap that he is purporting to close 184% 114% 442%