Most school districts in Erie and Niagara counties will get more money from the state in the coming year, but they're going to have to account for that money much more closely in the future.
The districts will see an average state aid increase next year of 3.45 percent in money for programs and services under a state budget deal approved early Saturday morning, according to documents provided by the State Legislature.
But the budget also includes a new policy that requires school districts to report more details about how they plan to spend the money on a school-by-school basis.
All but two area school districts, Orchard Park and Iroquois, would see state aid increase under the 2018-19 budget. That funding does not include building aid, which is dependent on construction projects that districts already have approved. State aid varies by school district depending on such factors as district size, enrollment and wealth.
The new transparency measure is intended to reveal inequities in funding allocations that might otherwise be hidden in districtwide budget breakdowns.
The policy requires districts to report their plans for school-level – rather than district-level – per-pupil spending. The building-by-building spending reports will include demographic data, teacher compensation and other information that should give a clearer picture of how money is being spent in schools.
"We think it's a great step forward, because shining a light on school-level funding inequities will enable parents, the public and policymakers to advance more equitable distribution of resources," said Ian Rosenblum, executive director of the Education Trust–New York, which advocates for low-income students and students of color.
Having another set of eyes on the annual data can help ensure districts are allocating their resources fairly among their schools, especially in schools where there are more students with disabilities, learning English as a second language, who are homeless or who come from low-income families, Rosenblum said.
However, critics see the measure as adding yet another level of onerous paperwork, one made unnecessary by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, which requires reporting that same data after the funds are spent.
"If the goal is transparency, ESSA will provide that, and it won't be about spending that is planned or intended, it will be what actually happened," said Robert Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.
Critics also said school-by-school funding already is overseen by locally elected school boards in a process that is open and transparent. And they suggest that adding an extra level of oversight could lead to local budget delays.
Critics also bristled at the threat of lost funding that is ensconced with the transparency measure. There is still the question of how complex the criteria for the required forms will be and to whose satisfaction they must be completed. Though the specifics are not yet clear, the budget says districts that don't properly submit the individual school data could lose their funding increase.
"The quality of education for thousands of students in a district could be jeopardized over the mere misfiling of paperwork," said David Albert, a spokesman for the New York School Boards Association.
Here's what each district would get next year under the state budget, according to state aid runs provided by the Legislature. The figures do not include building aid.
Akron: $13,148,492, up 2.72%
Alden: $13,243,718, up 3.89%
Amherst: $12,612,865, up 0.41%
Buffalo: $646,167,108, up 3.36%
Cheektowaga: $14,416,191, up 12.17%
Clarence: $20,990,364, up 4.17%
Cleveland Hill: $12,305,885, up 4.09%
Depew: $17,234,054, up 3.19%
East Aurora: $7,393,105, up 4.60%
Eden: $10,521,562, up 5.20%
Frontier: $30,970,032, up 3.09%
Grand Island: $17,052,935, up 4.55%
Hamburg: $22,459,894, up 3.32%
Holland: $9,380,638, up 1.81%
Iroquois: $13,637,263, down -2.05%
Kenmore-Tonawanda: $52,010,352, up 1.53%
Lackawanna: $35,326,086, up 6.30%
Lake Shore: $28,290,868, up 1.08%
Lancaster: $32,125,884, up 4.86%
Maryvale: $15,227,401, up 2.98%
North Collins: $7,410,589, up 3.51%
Orchard Park: $23,706,020, down -0.02%
Sloan: $15,287,011, up 2.00%
Springville-Griffith: $17,803,380, up 3.66%
Sweet Home: $20,518,647, up 3.70%
Tonawanda: $17,191,207, up 4.40%
West Seneca: $44,186,079, up 4.11%
Williamsville: $36,728,679, up 5.24%
Barker: $6,914,780, up 5.29%
Lewiston-Porter: $13,426,129, up 0.62%
Lockport: $47,953,020, up 1.93%
Newfane: $16,841,770, up 1.37%
Niagara Falls: $100,729,969, up 2.13%
Niagara Wheatfield: $29,126,390, up 4.26%
North Tonawanda: $36,155,746, up 3.17%
Royalton-Hartland: $13,633,099, up 3.51%
Starpoint: $17,103,882, up 6.76%
Wilson: $12,097,522, up 4.12%
Here are state aid figures (including building aid) for all school districts in New York State: