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    PRESS RELEASE: Parents Sue DOB Over Receivership Money

    For Immediate Release: 

    Julia Watson, Statewide Communications Coordinator, AQE
    julia@aqeny.org / (518) 432-5315 ext. 102


    Parents sue Governor Cuomo’s Division of Budget for Punishing  Improving Schools

    Lawsuit asks Court to order Division of Budget to immediately release receivership grants so schools can continue improvement efforts in 2016-17

    Albany (September 6, 2016). Parents from Albany, Yonkers, and New York City filed a lawsuit Friday demanding the immediate release of the receivership grant funds that Governor Andrew Cuomo has instructed the Division of Budget to withhold from nine schools across the state. The funds will enable the schools to continue improvement efforts through the current (2016-17) school year.

    Justice Roger D. McDonough, of the Supreme Court in Albany, signed an order requiring the defendants to appear in court in this lawsuit on Friday September 9th. The four defendants in this Article 78 Proceeding are Robert Mujica, Director, Division of Budget, Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia, and both the Division of Budget and the New York State Education Department. The plaintiffs are parents Nidia Cortes of the Bronx, Virgil Dantes and AnnMarie Heslop of Yonkers, and Curtis Witters of Albany.

    The nine schools are among 20 placed on a list of “persistently failing” schools in 2015 by the Commissioner of Education as part of Governor Cuomo’s receivership program.  To support efforts to improve performance, these schools were eligible for $75 million in “Transformation Grants” from the State to fund staff, programs and other interventions over a two year period.  The State Education Department developed a two year spending plan for all twenty schools and the Division of Budget signed off on this expenditure plan and released the first year of the two year grants in 2015-16.

    In 2016, the Commissioner found nine of the 20 schools made improvements on test scores and other outcomes and removed the schools from the “persistently failing” list.   Governor Cuomo then instructed the Division of Budget not to release the second year installment of the two year grants to the nine improving schools.

    The lawsuit contends that the Division of Budget is violating the law authorizing the improvement grants by refusing to release the second year of the grant funds to the nine schools removed by the Commissioner from the “persistently failing” list in 2016.  The law makes clear that the grants must be provided to support improvement efforts over a full two year period.

    The plaintiffs in this lawsuit are parents of students attending:

    • Hackett Middle School (Albany)
    • Roosevelt High School (Yonkers)
    • Mosholu Parkway Middle School (JHS 80) (Bronx)

    This lawsuit will also affect the following schools:

    • Grant Middle School (Syracuse)
    • Buffalo Elementary School of Technology (Buffalo)
    • Burgard Vocational High School (Buffalo)
    • South Park High School (Buffalo)
    • Automotive High School (Brooklyn)
    • PS 328 Phyllis Wheatley School (Brooklyn)

    The parents are represented by Education Law Center (“ELC”), a non-profit law firm specializing in litigation to enforce students’ education rights.

    “The law clearly authorizes two year grants and there is nothing to permit the Governor, through the Division of Budget, to withhold funds in the second year to schools that have made progress in the first year,” said David G. Sciarra, ELC Executive Director.  “Instead of punishing these schools for making gains, the Governor should be celebrating their success by ensuring they have the funds to do even better for their students this year.”

    “I am taking part in this because I know my daughter’s education is key in her future,” says Nidia Cortes, a parent of a student at Mosholu Parkway Middle School in the Bronx. “By withholding money from schools that were promised two years of funding and really need it, Governor Cuomo and New York State are not honoring that.”

    “As a parent, I am highly disappointed and outraged that the Governor has chosen to dismiss the hard work of not only our teachers but our students,” said Curtis Witters, a parent of a student at Hackett Middle School in Albany. “I entrust Hackett Middle School to provide my son with the best education possible. How can they do that if they don’t have the necessary funding to do so? This blatant disregard of our children’s future, my son’s future, is unacceptable. Withholding these funds is confirmation that elected officials have lost their way, and believe the only future that is important is their own.”

    Virgil Dantes, a mother whose daughter attends Roosevelt High School in Yonkers, said, “The Governor has sent a message to my child and all these students that their efforts and hard work mean nothing. While we parents push our children to say hard work counts, you have told them that the ultimate decision of how success should be rewarded is not theirs, but yours. Can you look into my child’s eyes and tell her that she is undeserving of a quality and enriched education? Because I can’t.”

    “Parents we speak with are bewildered by the Governor’s choice to withhold these funds. Only the students are hurt. The Alliance for Quality Education stands with parents in their lawsuit demanding justice for their children in these schools,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education.

    View the lawsuit here.

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