While Public Schools Suffer, New York State Sends Over $250 Million to Private Schools

A new report, New York Can’t Afford It, documents over $250 million in taxpayer dollars allocated to private schools in the 2019-20 New York State Budget at the same time Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature are underfunding the State’s public schools by over $3 billion.

The report was released today by Public Funds Public Schools, a nationwide campaign against private school vouchers and the diversion of public funds to private schools. PFPS is led by Education Law Center (ELC) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Can’t Afford It details the numerous categories of public monies sent to private schools to pay for a wide range of operating expenses, from textbooks ($21 million) to STEM teachers ($30 million), and from technology ($9 million) to the cost of complying with state reporting and other basic requirements ($193 million).

These categories of private school aid do not include the approximately $500 million in public funds spent on private school transportation each year, including funds diverted from local school district budgets to make up the shortfall in state transportation aid. For example, the East Ramapo Central School District is forced to take nearly $6 million from its schools to pay for busing for 26,000 private school students.

While the State is diverting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to private schools, New York has consistently underfunded its public schools. The current shortfall in state aid required by the Foundation Aid Formula is over $3 billion. The result: many districts are unable to provide essential education resources, including the very same teachers, technology and textbooks the State is paying for in private schools.

“The State has a constitutional obligation to adequately fund its public schools but has no such obligation to spend public funds on private schools,” said Wendy Lecker, Senior Attorney at Education Law Center. “New York public school students are owed billions, so every dollar in the State budget matters for their education and future. It’s time for the Legislature to phase out private school funding and reallocate those dollars to the underfunded public schools.”

Public Funds Public Schools is a national campaign supported by the Southern Poverty Law Center, SPLC Action Fund, Education Law Center, and Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP that strives to ensure that all public funds for education are used to maintain and support public schools.

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