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Highschoolers read to students

Auburn High School students Kevin Wang and Julian Bernard read to second-graders at Casey Park Elementary School in Auburn in 2015.

A new financial reporting requirement for New York school districts is a dubious effort to help solve inequality in education spending that will surely delay any meaningful reform in that arena for several years.

Auburn and Union Springs will have to report building-by-building spending to the state next year. Other districts across the state will follow suit in the years to come. But there is already plenty of data the state could be using — and should be using — to reconfigure its woefully outdated funding formula.

One flaw in the plan was made clear right off the bat when Union Springs was lumped in with the first school districts because it currently utilizes four buildings. But it will be using just three next year as renovations are completed on one elementary school in anticipation of the closure of another. How that scenario fits into building-by-building expenditures is anyone's guess.

And this new mandate will be phased in over three years, meaning that the first year of reporting for some districts won't arrive until the 2020-21 school year, so any possible analysis by the state of what it all means won't be taking place for more than three years.

The whole thing sounds like just another expensive and unfunded busywork requirement. Because districts are not currently set up to break down their expenses by building, they will need to have someone on staff reconfigure the software to make this manageable — or hire an outside firm to do it for them.

The state already knows the per-pupil cost of educating students. And while we can see the value in Auburn having a breakdown of the costs associated with its elementary schools, we don't see how this will help the state, in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's words, "come up with an equitable funding mechanism."

This flawed plan is another example of throwing legislation together to get it voted on along with the annual state budget without enough time to review it, discuss it, or rewrite it. Or perhaps scrap it altogether.

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.

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