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The ups and downs of budgets under fair student funding

As the city school system faces another round of budget cuts, a new report details which schools suffered the most under last year’s cuts — and which saw their budgets grow.

The analysis, prepared by the Independent Budget Office, compares the September budget allocations each school received this year to the same time last school year. It found that while the majority of schools — 864 out of 1,464 — saw their budgets drop, nearly 600 schools received greater per-pupil allocations this year.

Schools’ budgets change not only when their enrollment fluctuates, but also when their demographics shift. A school with a sudden influx of students who need special education services will see a budget increase. Schools receive less money per student as more of their students meet state academic standards. In some cases, schools that saw their overall budgets grow actually lost money per student.

How much money each school receives is determined in large part by a formula known as Fair Student Funding, which the city has used since the 2007- 2008 school year. The formula calculates the amount of money a school receives per student, but gives more money for each student with higher needs. Because of state cuts to education aid, however, the formula has never been fully phased in and some schools still receive more or less money than the formula calls for. And last year, to implement a 4 percent budget cut systemwide, the city changed its method of allocating funds so that no school would receive more than a 4.2 percent total cut.

The result is that the amount of money individual schools gained or lost this year varies considerably. Most schools saw less than a 3 percent cut or under a 3 percent gain. But just over 100 schools received more than 3 percent more money per student this year, and 150 schools lost more than 3 percent.

Read the IBO’s analysis and search individual schools’ budget allocations here.