Elaine Gross, founder of ERASE Racism.

Elaine Gross, founder of ERASE Racism. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

"Intensely segregated" public school districts on Long Island have fewer financial resources, and their students have less access to guidance counselors, social workers and Advanced Placement courses, according to a report released by ERASE Racism on Monday.

But the report's release by the Syosset-based civil rights organization comes during a time when school districts are receiving a large infusion of state and federal financial aid, part of which is geared toward the needs of districts with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students.

“Overall, the picture we found was one filled with inequities,” according to the 32-page report titled “Unequal Resources for Long Island Students Based on Race."

The report analyzed data of the Island’s 125 public school districts from 2003-04 to 2019-20. It included the Little Flower district, which takes students from across Long Island, based on need, such as special education. The other 124 districts enroll students from within their school boundaries.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • ERASE Racism's report released Monday finds inequities in the resources available to public school students on Long Island.
  • The report found that "intensely segregated" public school districts have fewer financial resources, and their students have less access to guidance counselors, social workers and Advanced Placement courses.
  • The report sees problems in funding formulas that negatively impact students in majority Black and Hispanic school districts.

Of the 125 districts, the report focuses on 66 districts, which fall into four categories: 11 intensely segregated (90% to 100% nonwhite); 10 majority Black and Hispanic (50%-89%); five racially diverse (40%-60% white), and 40 predominantly white (at least 70%).

Among the findings:

  • Predominantly white districts spend almost $10,000 more in revenue per student annually than intensely segregated districts, which have only 73% of the predominantly white district’s funding.
  • On average, there is one social worker for every 1,113 students in intensely segregated districts, but one for every 862 students in predominantly white districts.
  • Intensely segregated districts have a higher student-to-guidance counselor ratio than predominantly white districts: one guidance counselor to 1,226 students in the intensely segregated districts, compared with one guidance counselor for every 500 students in majority Black and Hispanic districts and 339 students in racially diverse districts and 356 students in predominantly white districts.

  • In intensely segregated districts, there is an Advanced Placement course for every 179 high school students in their districts,  more than double the median number of students per AP course for all districts that have at least one high school.

The report notes that while the Island's schools have become more racially diverse, "This picture masks the fact that where these students are enrolled continues to be severely racially segregated."

While the issue of school funding inequities is not new, “What we’ve attempted to do is to present a picture that is more complete,” said Elaine Gross, who founded the nonprofit ERASE Racism 20 years ago. ERASE has undertaken other research over the years, including doing reports on housing discrimination and other education issues.

Asked whether recent funding increases would eliminate the funding inequities, Gross said in an interview: "I agree that it looks better this time. But one can be skeptical because we have decades now of seeing that there has been an unwillingness” to fix the problems.

Overall, financial aid to Long Island districts is rising nearly $457.6 million for the 2022-23 school term. Districts received a similar increase for the current school year. It’s possible the districts might get a similar increase in 2023-24.

"While we know all the schools have received an infusion of cash in response to COVID, that does not address historical, structural impediments to equity. If everything else is held constant, temporary money can only do so much," Gross wrote in an email.

The report was researched and primarily written by Cam Owen, who until recently was ERASE Racism's policy analyst and researcher. Gross said the report “presents a picture that hopefully makes people think about the cumulative and compounding effects of each one of these disparities we’ve identified."

“Unfortunately, there is a narrative that essentially blames Black and brown students, their parents, their communities, their schools, the people who educate them — they get blamed for everything,” Gross said. “The narrative says those students really don’t want, or aren’t able to take the advance courses." That, she said, was “not based on fact."

Malverne schools Superintendent Lorna Lewis, who is on ERASE Racism's board, said the issues raised in the report are "something that I’ve written about and spoken about, and this is certainly being validated by the research. We have funded our education system in a way that grows those inequities."

As an example, Lewis recalled the scramble for laptops some largely Black and Hispanic districts faced when COVID-19 hit in 2020 and schools had to pivot to virtual learning.

"Those wealthy districts, mostly white districts, were able to immediately source laptops and carry on instruction," Lewis said. She said it took some of the poorer districts up to six months to find the money to get laptops.

"That has implications for the future, in the sense that there’s a learning gap," she added.

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