NYC school spending jumps a whopping 33% as enrollment, test scores tank

As enrollment and test scores hit a new low for New York City schools, spending has skyrocketed 33% since 2016 according to new data released on Tuesday by the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) and parents want to know where all the money is going.

The cost per public school student in grades Kindergarten through 12 was over $37,000 for fiscal year 2022. That figure is expected to keep ticking upward, shooting past $41,000 by 2026 if enrollment keeps plummeting.

Between school years 2015-16 and 2021-22, the school system in New York City lost in excess of 141,000 students.

“Simultaneous spending increases and enrollment declines led to rapid increases in K-12 DOE per-student spending,” the CBC noted.

Those numbers are even more sobering when you consider that the Department of Education in the Big Apple is facing a fiscal cliff as its recent lavish spending spree was fueled by a one-time boost in federal pandemic aid, which is now drying up, according to the report.

The school system in New York City is host to steadily declining enrollment rates that caused the cost per student to jump 15% in 2022 over the prior year, to $37,136 per K-12 student. That amount is a 47% increase since 2016 when there were over a million students in the public school system, according to the analysis. Today there are 900,000 students and that number is dropping.

Over the past seven years, public school spending has risen almost 5% annually to $37.6 billion, according to the CBC.

“As projected enrollment continues to decline, per-student spending will increase to nearly $38,000 in fiscal year 2024 and more than $41,000 in fiscal year 2026, or nearly $44,000 with likely collective bargaining costs,” the CBC contended, referring to the teachers’ union and likely salary hikes. “Decisions about the DOE’s budget should consider enrollment declines and the City’s precarious fiscal condition.”

Educational spending will drop in the 2024 budget, but it’s a drop on the proverbial bucket. It will go down $401 million to $36.5 billion. That drop will primarily be due to the pandemic spigot being turned off.

All the money in the world evidently is not helping New York City’s students. Their standardized test scores were flat or sank last year following ongoing pandemic shutdowns.

The number of third to eighth-graders who are currently proficient in math dropped almost eight points from 45.6% of students to 38%. Other subject scores are less than stellar as well.

Parents are fed up with spending more and more and seeing less and less from the public school system.

“This unchecked spending is a shame,” Assemblyman Sam Pirozzolo (R-Staten Island), who formerly served seven years as parent president of Staten Island’s Community Education Council 31, bluntly stated. “We are pouring money into a school system that doesn’t work. Students are not performing well.”

“It’s the definition of insanity. It’s doing the same thing over and over again,” the Republican claimed. “What’s the politicians’ response? They want to stop successful charter schools.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) has been pushing to open up to 100 new charter schools in the city as part of the state budget. But Democrats and the teachers’ union have been fighting her tooth and nail over it. The new budget was due on April 1. New Yorkers are still waiting on it.

The two sides have been so engrossed in fighting over housing and bail reform, charter schools have been put on the back burner. Serious talks concerning charter school expansion haven’t even begun.

The CBC is recommending that Mayor Eric Adams’s administration cut staffing and funding at public schools to make up for the decline in enrollment. It’s also recommending that the Department of Education be honest about programs that have to be shrunk or scrapped because pandemic funds have been cut off. The analysts are saying that Adams has to nix ineffective or wasteful programs and “prioritize those that deliver maximum impact to the target populations.”

A spokesman for Adams and the DOE stated, “This administration has been open and honest about the long-term, combined challenges of declining enrollment, programs funded by one-time federal stimulus dollars, and rising costs tied to unfunded mandates from the state.”

“Our mission for New York City Public Schools is to provide our students with exceptional foundational skills that will set them up for long-term social and economic success, and we will do so with all of our interested partners through the budget process,” the spokesman added, according to the New York Post.


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