ALBANY, NY. – When are people going to get over the notion that more money for public schools equals better instruction for children?

where your school dollars goAnd when are school boards going to abandon the idea that the more money they pay administrators, the better the chance for student success?

Let’s take a look at the Albany, New York school district, where academic outcomes seem to be pretty atrocious.

On 2014-15 state tests, the percentage of Albany students in grades 3-8 demonstrating proficiency in English and math fell woefully short of the state average.

In third grade English, 14 percent of Albany students were proficient, compared to 31 percent statewide. That’s a difference of 17 percent.

The percentage differential was similar down the line for English – fourth grade (14 percent-33 percent), fifth grade (15 percent- 30 percent), sixth grade (13 percent-31 percent), seventh grade (13 percent-29 percent) and eighth grade (19 percent-35 percent).

The difference was even more stark in math – third grade (15 percent Albany-42 percent statewide), fourth grade (16 percent-43 percent), fifth grade (17 percent-43 percent), sixth grade (13 percent-39 percent) and seventh grade (13 percent-35 percent).

And then there were the math results for eighth-graders. Only one percent of Albany students tested proficient, compared to 22 percent statewide. Ouch.

The irony is that money doesn’t seem to be an issue for Albany or any New York public schools.

“New York’s average spending per pupil grew from $11,546 in 2002-03 to $19,552 in 2012-13,” according to a publication entitled State of New York’s Failing Schools 2015.

“Between 2011-12 and 2014-15, the amount of state aid the districts received increased by double digits.

“As of today, New York spends more than any other state on a per pupil basis, and per pupil spending is 84 percent higher than the national average of $10,608.”

Two failing schools in the Albany district – Albany High School and William S. Hackett Middle School – have both been listed as failing for at least 10 years, according to state documents.

Between 2011-12 and 2014-15, state aid for both of those schools increased by 12.2 percent.

Perhaps part of the problem is how the Albany district spends its money. It clearly has a top-heavy payroll, with very good salaries for a lot of administrators.

According to public documents, 112 Albany employees made at least $100,000 in total pay in 2014-15, for a collective total of $12.3 million.

Interestingly, 12 of the 30 highest-paid employees were building principals, who are directly responsible for supervising the teachers who instruct children.

The highest paid principal (who performed that job the entire school year) made $134,989. The lowest paid of the group of 12 made $115,447.

Collectively the 12 principals raked in $1.49 million.

That’s a lot of pay for very poor results. While we’re sure that some are more academically successful than others, overall the results are a debacle.

With those principals making that kind of money, is there much incentive to improve academic outcomes?

The citizens of Albany should demand a full accounting of school funds. There seems to be enough money coming in. The people need to find out where it’s going, and what’s being accomplished – or not accomplished – as a result.

 

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