New York: Does teacher sorting contribute to financial inequalities?

English teacher Connie Bowen in the classroom at Ecole Saint-Landry, a French immersion charter school in Sunset. Monday, Jan. 10, 2022.Ecole St Landry 7252

Prior research shows FRPL students have lower access to experienced and other qualified teachers, compared to non-FRPL students. These patterns holds in New York, too. Since teachers are often paid on salary schedules that do not vary based on their school, these sorting patterns will lead to more dollars allocated to affluent settings, all else equal. Do teachers contribute to funding gaps in New York?​​

resource and funding gaps table


Within districts, FRPL students have lower access to experienced teachers while simultaneously receiving slightly higher allocations of teacher spending. The result is explained by compensatory staffing, where FRPL students are in schools with increased staffing ratios for teachers (see Table 1) and other instructional support staff (not shown).

figure 1

Teacher and spending allocations show greater variance looking across district boundaries. New York’s high-poverty schools receive lower amounts of teacher spending; teacher spending is even more regressive in high schools (see Figure 1). High-poverty schools have higher shares of novice teachers, and slightly lower teacher staffing ratios (see Figure 2).

figure 2

Approximately 69% of New York’s schools, serving 71% of students, are in progressive teacher spending districts (see Figure 3 for an overview of spending progressivity in New York’s districts). 


  1. New York districts generally compensate FRPL students’ low access to experienced teachers with higher classroom staffing ratios; essentially exchanging quality for quantity. Yet, FRPL students should have many more teachers (smaller class sizes) to be fairly compensated for inexperienced teachers.
  2. Though within-district spending is slightly progressive on net in most districts, spending is regressive when looking across districts overall due to high concentrations of FRPL students in low-spending districts (adjusting for area costs). The state should be doing more to reallocate financial and staffing resources across districts.


This analysis uses school-level financial data from the Edunomics Lab’s NERD$ database, paired with staffing data from the Civil Rights Data Collection and enrollment data from the Common Core of Data. FRPL is an acronym for eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch, our best proxy for low household income. New York uses the 130% (free) and 185% (reduced) federal poverty household income thresholds to determine eligibility.

Continue reading Chapter 2: Does teacher sorting contribute to financial inequalities? →

Read the other case studies (IndianaLouisianaNevada, Massachusetts, and North Carolina) →


  • Acknowledgements and disclosures

    The authors thank Adelle Patten for communications support. We also acknowledge generous financial support from the Gates Foundation in enabling the Brown Center to conduct this work.