RELEASE: Cynthia Nixon and Education Officials Call for Full Investment and Greater Equity in New York’s Public Schools
For immediate release: March 24, 2014
Emily Karol, Alliance for Quality Education
Cynthia Nixon and Education Officials Call for Full Investment and Greater Equity in New York’s Public Schools
Warn that proposed education budget falls short and without increase will have devastating consequences for students and state
ALBANY, NY – Without sufficient school aid in this year’s education budget, another year of classroom cuts are inevitable and will have destructive and irreversible impacts on students, said a group of education officials, superintendents and advocates on Monday.
“This budget fails the children and the future of New York,” said Schenectady City School District Superintendent Laurence Spring. “By perpetuating a systematic starving of school districts, the Governor and the Legislature put the future of hundreds of thousands of children at great risk. In Schenectady, we are being forced to make choices between mandated programs like technology and non-mandated programs like kindergarten and remedial reading.”
The Alliance for Quality Education’s Advocacy Director Zakiyah Ansari said that the basic needs of students are being ignored, especially K-12 funding.
“This is the moment when egos need to be put aside and the real needs of students need to be addressed,” said Ansari. “The fate of not only the future of New York’s students are at stake, but if public education continues to be defunded, the very foundation of New York will be in jeopardy.”
The current agreement between the Governor and legislative leaders would only increase school aid by $840 million this year, which falls well short of the $1.3 billion that the New York State Board of Regents advised would stop schools from having to make cuts. Education officials, including the Superintendent of Fairport Central School District outside of Rochester, warn that it will most certainly mean more cuts to programs, resources and staff.
“We have already been forced to cut 40 positions, increase class sizes, eliminate the prestigious International Baccalaureate program, dramatically reduce professional development, and eliminate scores of elective courses,” said Fairport Central School District Superintendent William Cala. “Another year of aid that falls below what we were receiving in 2009 will be devastating for our district. At this rate, public schools are no longer sustainable. Our children deserve better than this.”
For the last five years, school districts across the state have been making efficiencies and cutting back on resources, including the elimination of 35,000 teachers and other educators statewide. Despite a steady increase in costs, many school districts are operating on less aid than in 2009 due to years of insufficient state funding.
Inadequate funding is especially devastating in high and average need districts where poverty is high and student needs are greater, like Schenectady. Currently, there is almost a $9,000 gap in spending per pupil between wealthy and poor school districts, which leads to a gap in opportunities for students in those districts. Go to this website for a graph of the growing gap in funding: http://www.aqeny.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Opportunity-Gap.pdf
This gap has grown and continues to grow under Governor Cuomo. A national report card on school funding fairness gave New York an “F” due to its regressive and inequitable funding system. Governor Cuomo has proudly touted himself as the “students’ lobbyist.” However, since Governor Cuomo took office in 2010, New York has fallen from eighth (8th) to twentieth (20th) in quality of education in Education Week’s ranking of states.
“In Governor Cuomo’s war with the education community, the real victims are New York’s school children, especially the nearly one million children who live below or near the poverty line,” said Dr. Michael Hogan, Associate Dean of the College of Education, Information and Technology at Long Island University. “At a time when research shows that we need to be making a larger investment in these students, New York is decreasing its investment, deepening a system of pervasive inequality in this state.”
The Governor has repeatedly said that New York is spending too much on education, but education advocates say that years of cuts to school aid, rising costs and inequitable distribution has led to an education crisis in the state.
“When he was running for Governor, Andrew Cuomo said educational inequality was the civil rights issue of our time and that it was the state’s responsibility to equalize or come close to equalizing that funding gap. In the past three state budgets, however, New Yor State has turned the wheel sharply in the other direction,” said Emmy Award-winning actress and parent advocate Cynthia Nixon. “Since 2011, our schools have been forced to make deeper and deeper education cuts each ensuing year with the poorest districts absorbing those cuts at almost three times the rate of the wealthiest districts. Saying it is not about money is nothing more than a talking point, an excuse for underfunding our children’s educational opportunities.”
“The Governor’s idea of an education policy debate is to attack public school advocates,” said Bill Samuels, founder of New Roosevelt and co-founder of Effective NY. “That’s a shame because there’s never been a more important time than now to focus on the quality of education in the public schools that educate 97 percent of New York students.”
With the Governor proposing approximately $2 billion in tax cuts to wealthy property owners and corporations, advocates are calling for those funds to be invested in New York’s students.
“The gaping gulf in educational inequality between rich and poor school districts has grown as a result of Governor Cuomo’s school funding policies,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “His so-called ‘tax freeze’ plan will make matters worse. It sends money to residents of wealthy school districts at the expense of poor and middle class schools—a reversal of his campaign pledge to equalize educational opportunities.”
Go to this website for a graph of the distribution of the tax freeze rebate checks: http://www.aqeny.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Tax-Freeze.pdf
Lawmakers have until March 31 to come to an agreement on the budget.