Guest op-ed: Equitable school funding critical to making New York the fairest big city in America


If New York City really wants to become the fairest big city in America, we need to make sure all of our students—whether they’re in a classroom in Coney Island or in the Upper West Side—receive the same quality educational opportunities and emotional support services.

Last month, our city took a huge step towards true equity for all by increasing Fair Student Funding (FSF) for schools throughout the city by adding $125 million in FSF.

More than 588,000 students at 854 schools will be impacted by this increased funding. Brooklyn will receive the biggest boost, with 274 schools receiving funding; 192 schools in Queens will receive funding; 190 schools in the Bronx will receive funding; 157 schools in Manhattan will receive funding; and 41 schools in Staten Island will receive funding.

FSF is a vital source of funding that can be used at a principal’s discretion, making it the most flexible funding source available for schools.  

Because principals have the freedom to use FSF in the best ways they see fit, many use it to hire critical emotional support staff, including social workers to help ensure that students’ social and emotional needs are being met.

So many students face tremendous obstacles and our city needs to do a better job at protecting all the students who call New York City home. Right now, undocumented students are being bombarded with hateful rhetoric; students of all ages are victims and witnesses of domestic abuse; and many students live with the traumatic uncertainty of being homeless.

When students face emotional and physical traumas, it can be hard for them to focus on learning. Having social workers in schools provides a much-needed resource for many students, and FSF gives schools the important ability to hire more social workers.

As chair of the Education Committee, I’ve been to schools throughout the city and I’ve seen the many ways social workers can help students.

In Queens, I visited a Rise School—a graduate of the Renewal School program—and I watched as student after student gravitated towards the school’s bilingual social worker.

The students said, in both English and Spanish, that social workers made their school feel safe. The principal said it was because of FSF that he was able to hire a social worker.

Community Schools and Renewal Schools already receive 100 percent FSF—and that funding has proven to be a critical resource in helping schools that have historically been disinvested in for far too long.  

With the new funding, all schools are now guaranteed to receive 90 percent of their FSF entitlement, an increase from the baseline 87 percent entitlement schools received in the past. This increased funding puts our city on a great path towards ensuring that all schools will be funded at 100 percent FSF.

I have advocated for increased FSF in Albany, and we in the City Council have long advocated for increased FSF because we know that funding can be the difference between whether or not a school can afford to hire social workers and other staff.

It’s time to give our students, teachers, principals, and staff the funding they deserve to make our city a better and fairer place.

Mark Treyger is a New York City councilmember and the chair of the Education Committee.

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