Long Island Index Education Study Finds Inefficiencies and Inequalities Mismatch in Funding versus Student Needs

High Number of School Districts Is Cited

Garden City, NY (January 30, 2009) - A year-long study by the Long Island Index has found that the region's educational structure, characterized by a large number of small districts, suffers from inefficiency and inflexibility, and a mismatch between school resources and student needs. Among the anomalies the Index reports, in districts where student needs are greatest, per-pupil spending is the least. By contrast, in districts where large sums are spent, academic achievement is no higher than in mid-range schools. The current structure also limits the region's flexibility in terms of improving racial and ethnic diversity, providing programs for the gifted and talented, and addressing the needs of children with limited English, the Index found. The Rauch Foundation will formally release Long Island's sixth indicators report, the Long Island Index 2009, on Friday, January 30th from 8:00 am to 9:30 am at Hofstra University, Student Center Theater, 200 Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York.

Speakers at the press event include:  
Nancy Rauch Douzinas, President, Rauch Foundation
Ann Golob, Director, Long Island Index
Dr. John Jackson, President and CEO, The Schott Foundation for Public Education
Steve Levy, Suffolk County Executive
Thomas R. Suozzi, Nassau County Executive

The Long Island Index team quantified how educational services are delivered across the island. Working with three research teams, they analyzed the problems in terms of revenue, expenditures, academic outcomes, options and opinions. Hofstra University completed a statistical analysis of the relationships between disparities in educational resources, challenges, and outcomes.  Fiscal Policy Institute in Albany studied the impact of New York State's complex and shifting formulas for educational funding and the Survey Center at Stony Brook University polled Long Islanders on their opinions about our education system and their attitudes toward proposed reforms.

According to Ann Golob, Director, Long Island Index, "While many reports have been written about Long Island's educational system, this is the first that systematically looks at our region from the dual perspectives of how and where we spend our money compared to overall academic achievement. We didn't always find what we expected. The study showed that high-needs students in relatively wealthy districts significantly outperformed high-needs students in poor districts. Access to more resources and interaction with a more diverse student body promote better achievement. The study noted that isolation of students in small districts, regardless of income or race, limits opportunity."

Findings confirm that Long Islanders are not well aware of the scope of these problems in the region and more education is needed to inform residents about how students are separated into poorer and wealthier districts and the resulting academic outcomes. However, 79% of Long Islands agree that children who attend schools with a mix of students from different ethnic, racial and economic backgrounds are more prepared for the diverse settings of college and the workplace than children who attend segregated schools.

According to Nancy Rauch Douzinas, President of the Rauch Foundation, "Long Island's future depends on rebuilding its economic engine. Education is a critical component of that equation. We need to use this data to find more opportunities to seed change rather than accept what has always been."

Dr. John Jackson, President and CEO of the Schott Foundation and former member of the Obama-Biden transition team, will serve as the keynote speaker at the launch. Dr. Jackson advises, "According to OECD data, to remain globally competitive, the U.S. will need to have 60% of its citizens possess a college degree or postsecondary credential by 2025.  That is more than 16 million additional college-educated workers.  The only way we will meet this need is to provide a fair and substantive opportunity to learn for all children."

Although Long Island has a long history of rejecting proposals for change, the Long Island Index survey found substantial support for many new options that would address the key issues facing Long Islanders.

For example:

  • 73% of Long Islanders favor pooling commercial property taxes and distributing them equally across the school districts.
  • 66% of Long Islanders support a magnet school to provide in-depth instruction in science, mathematics or the arts and 63% favor locating the school in their own district.
  • 67% of Long Islanders favor offering a limited number of children in failing school districts the chance to attend better schools in nearby districts where space is available.  64% said they would support this program for their own school district.
  • 61% of Long Islanders support creating housing for lower-income families in middle class and wealthier neighborhoods.

Long Island Index 2009 Key Findings:

ECONOMY

  • Long Island's economy is not faring well in comparison to the U.S. as a whole. 
  • Annual growth in GDP/GMP (Gross Domestic Product/Gross Metropolitan Product) was less on Long Island than the U.S. 
  • Most significantly, average annual pay per employee was on the down swing in 2008 and is now on par with the United States as a whole.  Ten years ago, Long Islanders earned more than the U.S. average but in inflation adjusted dollars, Long Island's average pay per employee was $834 lower in 2008 than it was in 1999.
  • Long Island is one of the few places in the nation with local bidder preference laws which are in place to favor local contractors for public work projects and purchases of goods and services.  The downside is that they can result in higher costs and reduce competition.

OUR COMMUNITIES

  • Revised Census data shows 4% population growth in Nassau and Suffolk over the past eight years compared to previous estimates that showed virtually no growth.
  • Long Island continues to become more racially and culturally diverse but still lags the U.S. overall.
  • Long Island's downtowns showed a small increase in vacancy rates over the past year indicating that the problems on Wall Street had not yet impacted Main Street.
  • Home sale prices declined and gross monthly rents leveled off. 
  • High-cost loans account for 24% of all mortgages on Long Island between 2004 and 2007.  Blacks and Latinos received the majority of these types of loans.
  • Transit ridership grew in 2007 but still lags other rail systems in the larger region.

HEALTH & EDUCATION

  • The number of students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) in high-poverty schools has doubled in the past seven years. 
  • Only 45% of Long Island's children under the age of six are in a formal, regulated child care program. Of those families using licensed child care programs, 76% pay more than the recommended 10% of their household income on that care.

OUR ENVIRONMENT

  • Land preservation goals are still not being met but the number of acres preserved improved slightly.
  • Long Island's electricity and natural gas consumption keeps growing as well as our carbon emissions.

GOVERNANCE

  • Long Island relies more heavily on property taxes as a percentage of total revenues than the rest of the state and property taxes have increased 20% in the past ten years compared to 6% statewide.

The Long Island Index 2009 highlighted areas of the country that have successfully addressed many of the critical issues in education. One innovative initiative on equity took place here on Long Island. Administrators in Rockville Center school district were troubled by the persistent achievement gap between on the one hand, Black and Latino students, and on the other, Whites and Asian-American students. They were troubled, too, by the over-representation of Blacks and Latinos in low-achieving classes. In the late 1990's, under the guidance of Superintendent William Johnson, they started de-tracking their classes. Instead of isolating all the "gifted" students in one class, the "slow learners" in another, they mixed the classes by ability and race, and they taught a new, more rigorous curriculum to everyone.  Intuition might tell you that the low-track students might go up, but the high-track students would go down. That is not what the research showed. In class after class all groups went up and the achievement gap closed. Carol Corbett Burris, principal of RVC's South Side High School concludes, "Give all student access to first-class learning opportunities and everyone wins."

Here are some examples from other parts of the country that we may learn from and perhaps consider implementing in our own region:  

  • Creation of Vermont's State Education Fund that removed the inequities in funding between rich and poor school districts.
  • Minnesota's "Fiscal Disparities Act" that pooled commercial taxes across seven counties.
  • One-county school districts, such as Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, in Northern Virginia that have greater resources available to address local problems.
  • Creation of magnet schools to allow students with outstanding achievement to excel in programs that may not be offered by their home district.
  • Seven regions of the country have developed voluntary inter-district transfer programs that allow students from urban districts with high poverty to attend schools in neighboring suburban districts where poverty levels are much lower.

Attendees at the press conference include members of business and community organizations, Nassau and Suffolk County government leaders, educators and the media.  Simultaneously, copies of the 2009 Index will be distributed to business leaders and community organizations, public officials and the general public. Downloadable copies of the Long Island Index 2009 are available at www.longislandindex.org.

The Long Island Index 2009 was developed and spearheaded by an Advisory Committee representing Long Island's diverse communities, businesses, labor and civic sector. The specific indicators were selected to reflect region-wide impact and interests. The Rauch Foundation provided funding for the project. The report presents an unbiased, nonpartisan view measuring the well being of the Long Island community. It also details an overall picture of how Long Island is faring as a region and where there are needs or gaps that should be addressed now to avoid future problems. By identifying emerging trends, the Index has created a tool that can be used by government, business and community leaders in their decision-making processes that will affect the quality of life for Long Island residents.

Interactive Mapping Feature on www.longislandindex.org to Include Long Island Index 2009 Data

Key education data from the Long Island Index 2009 study on school district size, finances, obstacles, and affluence plus school locations and links to the State Education Department report cards has been added to the interactive mapping feature on the Long Island Index website www.longislandindex.org.

The feature was developed in collaboration with the CUNY Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center, and allows users to zoom in on any community or the entire Island and map specific trends and patterns of interest to them. This creative application of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology enables users to mix and match data to suit their individual needs, without having to search multiple sites and resources. The feature combines land use data across Nassau and Suffolk counties that had never been mapped online before, Census demographics, downtown surveys, aerial photos, and much more.

In addition to the education statistics, information has been added to the map concerning brownfields (showing the locations of 278 brownfield sites plus information for each on clean-up expenditures) and child care programs (showing the location of each program plus program details for each one).

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About the Rauch Foundation: The Long Island Index is funded by the Rauch Foundation, a family foundation headquartered in Garden City, New York.  In addition to funding the LongIsland Index for five years the Rauch Foundation commissioned The Long Island Profile Report and a series of six polls on Long Island to determine how the region is faring compared to other suburbs in the NY Metro area.  The polls, (1) "Long Islanders: Who Are We?", (2) "Caring for Long Island's Children", (3) "Roomfor Growth: Long Island's Changing Economy", (4) "Where Do We Grow From Here? Land Use on Long Island", (5) "Regional Attitudes on Taxation and Governance", and (6) " Long Island Looks to the Future: Housing Alternatives and Downtown Development."  The Long Island Index 2004, Long Island Index 2005, Long Island Index 2006, Long Island Index 2007 and Long Island Index 2008 are all available for download at www.longislandindex.org.

Media are encouraged to attend but must register by calling Deanna Morton at 516.829.5502 or 516.732.6414 (cell) or Rebecca Wiley at 516.829.5502. 

In the event of inclement weather, please call 516-873-9808 ext. 202 or check www.longislandindex.org for more information. The snow date is:  Friday, February 6, 2009, from 8:00 am to 9:30 am at Hofstra University, Student Center Theater, Hempstead.

Media Contact:
Deanna Morton, InfiniTech
P. (516) 829-5502 F. (516) 829-1008
Cell: (516) 732-6414
dmorton@infinitechpronline.com