On March 11, Julie Lutz, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer, Eastern Suffolk BOCES, spoke at LIMBA’s (Long Island Metro Business Action) virtual meeting on the topic “Public Education on Long Island: Shifting Demographics, Costs & Outcomes. Why It Matters?”
During her presentation, Dr. Lutz described the shifts in Long Island schools over the past decade. While school districts such as Central Islip, Riverhead, Brentwood and Wyandanch have seen increases in enrollment, the number of students enrolled in Suffolk County public schools overall dropped 12.1%, according to Dr. Lutz.
Between the 2012-13 and 2020-21 school years, the number of children considered to be “economically disadvantaged” was up 27.4%. “Even wealthier school districts fell into this,” she said, adding that Long Island school districts saw a 27.2% bump in economically disadvantaged students, compared to a 6.1% increase throughout the rest of the state.
In addition, there has been “a growing number of English Language Learners” (ELL) in Suffolk’s schools, Dr. Lutz said. In fact, the number of ELL students increased 66.6% from 2010-11 to 2020-21. As of October 2020, there were 42,163 ELLs on Long Island, which is 18.2% of the state’s total ELL population (including New York City). For students with disabilities, the number in Suffolk rose 7.3%, compared to 6.8% on Long Island, 6.0% in Nassau and 3.7% for the rest of the state.
In explaining the differences between wealthy and poor school districts, Dr. Lutz said that 61.4% of Suffolk students attend a district of below average wealth. Among ESBOCES districts, that figure is 69.4%, and it is 45.5% among Western Suffolk BOCES districts. In addition, 1.1% of students experienced homelessness at some point during the school year, compared to 0.9% for the rest of the state (excluding New York City and Long Island).
Dr. Lutz also pointed out that the least wealthy districts on Long Island are majority-minority; 67.7% are Hispanic and 20.7% are Black. The wealthiest districts, meanwhile, are 54.6% white, 22.2% are Hispanic and only 3.5% Black.
Dr. Lutz said that “parents come to Long Island for the educational quality.” During her presentation, she pointed out that, in 2020, the graduation rate was 91.5% on Long Island, compared to Suffolk County (90.3%), the rest of the state (87.5%) and New York State outside of New York City (88.7%). Furthermore, of the Long Island students who graduate, 86% go on to college.
Long Island school districts graduate a high percentage of students with Advanced Regents diplomas — 58.4%, compared to the rest of the state at 38.9%, according to Dr. Lutz. “If Long Island were its own state,” she said, “we would be number one in the nation in the number of 2022 Regeneron Science Talent Search semifinalists with 49.” That would be greater than California (45) and the rest of New York (44).
Eighty to 90 percent of the students in ESBOCES’ career and technical training programs go on to higher education. “This dispels the myth that students in our schools don’t go to college,” Dr. Lutz said. “These students are getting trained [in the trades] and are able to get job offers [after graduation]. There is sometimes a hurdle students need to jump over to get into the BOCES program, but these programs keep giving students a leg up.”
The problem is that Long Island is short changed when it comes to school aid from Albany. “The share of state aid to Long Island is 12.5%, but we educate 15.8% of the state’s children,” Dr. Lutz said. “Long Island needs its fair share of state aid. More money is coming from our pockets. Not only do we get less, but the purchasing power [of the state aid money] is also less.”
According to Dr. Lutz, over two-thirds of the schools’ revenues on Long Island are funded by property taxes. “As a result, we see many families moving to other parts of the country that are more affordable,” Dr. Lutz said.
For more information about upcoming LIMBA programs, visit https://limba.net.
Since 1968, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) has been Long Island’s catalyst for economic investment and improvement, sponsoring lively breakfast forums featuring Long Island business activists and government officials. Its mission is to promote and address issues that affect the quality of life on Long Island. For more information, call (631) 757-1698 or visit www.limba.net.