Release: AQE Calls for $200 Million in Competitive Grants to be Redirected
Alliance for Quality Education
Calls for $200 Million in Competitive Grants to be Redirected to General Support and Foundation Aid for Schools
For Immediate Release: Monday, January 23, 2012
Nikki Jones, AQE Communications Director, 518-432-5315
Zakiyah Ansari, AQE Advocacy Director, 212-328-9266
(Albany, NY) In a joint committee budget hearing of the Senate Finance and the Assembly Ways and Means Committees, the Alliance for Quality Education is calling on the Legislature to take additional steps to ensure that average and high needs districts are prioritized. AQE is calling for the Legislature to redirect the $200 million proposed increase in competitive grants included in the Executive Budget to general support and foundation aid for schools. As proposed the Executive Budget would only restore $550 million in school aid, which includes only $290 million in classroom aid. Even if the $200 million is redirected from competitive grants to classroom aid it will be inadequate compared to the devastating $2.7 billion cut from classrooms over the past two years. AQE is calling for the legislature to make additional restorations and to consider closing corporate tax loopholes as a way to provide revenues. In addition, AQE is calling for an increase in Pre-K funding by $53 million – as proposed by the New York State Board of Regents.
“The idea of making our schools and school children compete for school aid means that some of our children will be winners and some will be losers,” said Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director, AQE, a mother of eight. “I can’t imagine having my kids compete for dinner knowing that they are all hungry. Our children are in need of nourishment in the name of art, music, college prep courses, after school programs and technology. Who is going to choose which of them gets fed?”
The testimony will be provided by AQE’s Communications Director, Nikki Jones and Zakiyah Ansari, AQE’s Advocacy Director. Ms. Ansari is the mother of eight children, four of whom have graduated from New York City public schools and four of whom are currently enrolled.
School Aid Restorations
“The Executive budget falls short of the proposal the Board of Regents put forth,” said Ms. Ansari. “Last year’s state budget promised an $805 million in school aid restorations, but if $250 million is diverted into competitive grants this will leave only $555 million in allocated school aid. The $555 Million proposed is only 2.86% restoration, not the 4.1% committed. This amount will not even keep up with inflation, so classrooms will again see cuts. A rural district like Jordan-Elbridge in Onondaga County lost $2052 per pupil over the past two years would only get a $239 per pupil restoration. If the legislature does not fix this problem, once again the promise to our kids will be broken.”
“Everywhere you turn people are talking about college readiness; these competitive grants will only ensure that SOME have the chance to be college ready. One or the other may be denied access to a guidance counselor because their school lost resources as a result of a competition,”
said Ms. Ansari. “Competition might be healthy if you’re training for a race or on a team but its’ not healthy or okay when you have rural parts of the state like Jordan-Elbridge competing with Scarsdale or New York City competing with Syosset or needy districts like Binghamton and Buffalo competing with each other for money desperately needed to ensure that all our children have an opportunity to learn. Test scores should not be used to determine whether or not students will receive the classroom resources they need to succeed.”
“We began last week by honoring the memory of Dr. King I wonder what he would say if he knew we were considering making our children compete to get to the mountain top,” Ms. Ansari said.
“I understand the importance of successful performance of holding the bar high. My eldest daughter Anisah graduated high school with an Advance Regents diploma, graduated from Baruch College Cum Laude, B.A. Sociology, and last year graduated from Hunter Graduate School of Social Work with her Master’s Degree,” Ms. Ansari said. “She will begin her PhD in Criminal Justice in March 2012. My daughter Aliyah graduated valedictorian from her high school also with an Advanced Regents diploma and last year graduated from NYU with a B.A. Africana Studies.”
“As parents we have high expectations and dreams for our children no matter if we are rich, poor, or an immigrant we want better for our children than what we had. We want them to be successful, productive citizens and ultimately leave our homes and only come back to visit. The fact is if they don’t get a good education, they won’t get a good job and if they don’t get a job, they are more likely to wind up in jail for which we always find the money.”
Text of the testimony can be found HERE.