While most students, parents and teaching staff are enjoying time away from the classrooms, Board of Education officials are using this time to gather information about the poverty rates of New York’s public schools and using those numbers to determine federal funding.
A recent New York Times article explains how the free-lunch programs help determine the overall student poverty rates and parents’ median income for public schools and how that information affects the 2013 budget. In many cases, if the poverty rates drop below 60 percent, schools lose a lot of money. So much so, that teachers are often let go.
The issue is actually a bit more complex than that. There are about 87 schools in New York City that have parents that make too much annually to help a school qualify for funding, while other parents in the same district are too poor to lose the financial support.
Administrators blame gentrification and the constantly changing neighborhood landscape for steep income differences within one district. Others say that the difference is in the amount of free lunch forms parents return in the beginning of the school year.
For example, at New Utrecht High School at 1601 80th Street, one-third of the 3,000 students receive public assistance and that counts toward the school’s official 59 percent poverty rate.
However, the system may be flawed as Mitchel Kubiak, New Utrecht High School Assistant Principal, said that he estimated the actual poverty rate to be much higher than that. He believes the problem stems from the unreturned free-lunch forms. He said that last year, 30 percent of his didn’t return their forms. That amounts to about $1,000 in federal funds.
According to Kubiak, the new budget has been downsized by nearly $2 million in the last two school years. As for the coming year, the school may stand to lose another $500,000 in financial support.