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Long Island’s ‘intensely segregated’ schools lack funding to provide equitable services

Elise Amendola

Long Island has “intensely segregated” public school districts and fewer educational resources than predominantly white districts, according to a report from the advocacy group ERASE Racism on Monday.

The report shows that 40 mostly white school districts spend almost $10,000 more on each student, and have 25% more district funding than 11 schools that serve almost all nonwhite students.

Elaine Gross, the president of Erase Racism, said the pandemic was an opportunity to build equity in schools through remote learning and services. However, Gross said “intensely segregated” districts lacked the funding.

“We made some phone calls related to devices in 2021 to see if students had devices at home, computers or laptops or something that would allow them to learn remotely,” Gross said. “Still at the beginning of 2021, some students have never had a device. So if you have

fiscal stress, you're less likely to be able to pivot quickly and just buy a bunch of devices for your students or something like that.”

Predominantly Black and Latino school districts also have less access to Advanced Placement courses due to their lack of education funding. In wealthier districts, for every 99 white students, there’s an AP course that they can take. In poorer districts of color, it's one for every 179 students.

“If you don't get the AP courses, which are now not a luxury, you're at a disadvantage moving forward,” Gross said. “Now that schools have been getting more people accustomed to remote learning … If a student doesn't have an AP course available in their district, why not allow them to take it in another district?”

Gross pointed the finger at the state of New York as the only way to fix the lack of resources in these more segregated districts.

“I think that what anyone can do who reads this research and is disturbed by it is they can suggest both to their elected officials and to the New York State Education Department, they can suggest that this is a priority, that this represents a crisis and it needs to be dealt with,” Gross said.

State funding for Long Island districts has increased by over $457 million for the next school year. Districts received a similar boost this year due to federal coronavirus relief funding.

Last week, voters approved a spending increase of over 10% to revamp services in five school districts of the highest-need, including Brentwood, Hempstead, Copiague, Roosevelt and Wyandanch, while tax hikes were held at just 1%.

Natalie is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.