An error in calculating a federal funding formula misdirected the funds to charter schools

CANANDAIGUA — A calculation error in estimating distribution of 2017-18 federal funds for educator professional development left 687 school districts in New York state short $12 million.

The error affects all districts in Ontario County, each of which will be getting an increase in their 2018-19 funding to compensate for the lost Title IIA funds for both years.

“The State Education Department regrets this unfortunate error and any undue burden it may place on schools,” Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says in a release. “We are taking immediate steps to correct it and ensure it does not happen again, including strengthening our internal controls.”

In calculating the implementation of the federal funding formula for the 2017-18 school year, SED over-allocated $12 million to 275 charter schools and three Special Act schools. The miscalculation resulted in underpayments of the same amount to the 687 districts. The $12 million represents about 7.8 percent of the $153 million for local educational agencies throughout the state.

“We will do everything possible to reduce the impact for all schools, including to reimburse 99 percent of districts this year,” Elia says.

Each district that was under-funded will receive its correct allocation for 2018-19, plus its 2017-18 under-allocation up to $130,728, making 682 school districts — or 99 percent — whole this year.

"Because the amount withheld from Naples was much smaller than what other schools experienced, we do not anticipate the allocation having any sort of negative impact on teaching and learning at Naples Central Schools,” said Superintendent Matt Frahm. "School funding is incredibly complex, and unfortunately, we all make mistakes from time to time. We appreciate the fact that the State Education Department was able to catch the problem, accept responsibility and outline a solution moving forward."

Underpayments for Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and East Ramapo — because of their size — will be paid over a two-year period. For New York City, it will be over a four-year period.

The money overpaid to certain schools will be recouped in reduced annual payments for up to five years until fully recovered. No schools in Ontario County were overpaid.

As a result of changes to the Title IIA federal funding formula to shift funding from large states with urban populations to smaller states, the Congressional Research Service estimates New York's allocation will decrease by about $60 million from 2017-18 to 2023-24.

New York saw decreases under the new U.S. Department of Education funding formula last year and the current school year. Funding for 2019-20 is not yet known, but is expected to be less, as well.

To help provide schools with as much programmatic and fiscal flexibility as possible, NYSED will award Title IV, Part A Student Support and Academic Enrichment program funds to all eligible local educational agencies through an allocation process.

The newly available funds may be used to provide all students with access to a well-rounded education; improve school conditions for student learning; and improve the use of technology in order to improve the academic achievement and digital literacy for all students.

Based on individual needs, schools may also use the newly available funding for Title IIA professional development activities.