Don’t Trade on Our Youth: Say Raise the Age & Public Education Advocates
No Budget Deal Should Trade Charter School Funding for
Raise the Age
New York State budget negotiations have gone into overtime and among the issues tying up the ability to reach an agreement are Raise the Age and increased funding for privately run charter schools. Public education advocates and Raise the Age advocates have joined together to demand a positive outcome for New York’s youth on both issues. Representatives of Justice League NYC, Advancement Project and the Alliance for Quality Education are demanding a real Raise the Age plan that ends the prosecution of youth as adults and the rejection of efforts to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from underfunded public schools into privately-run charter schools.
Currently, New York State is one of only two states—along with North Carolina—which prosecutes 16 and 17 year olds as adults. Proposals to raise the age of criminal responsibility is one of the most hotly contested issues in the budget negotiations and is a stated priority for Assembly Democrats, Senate Democrats, the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) and Governor Cuomo. Another top tier issue is the proposal for large increases in funding for privately-run charter schools—from either the state or from local school districts. Governor Cuomo, the Senate Republicans and the IDC have all pushed plans for massive increases in funding for charter schools at the expense of public schools. In fact, several reports revealed that the Senate Republican-IDC coalition sought to trade large increases in charter school funding for Raise the Age in recent days. Meanwhile public schools are owed $4.3 billion in Foundation Aid targeted to schools in high needs communities—funding which the Assembly has fought for, but the Governor and Senate Republican-IDC budgets have proposed to underfund. While underfunding needy public schools in rural communities and small and large cities, the Governor and the Senate Majority Coalition are proposing to add hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for charter schools.
Whether Black or Brown youth in cities or White young people in poor rural communities, New York’s current regressive policy of prosecuting youth as adults and the underfunding of public schools cut off opportunities and place young people at tremendous risk. Charter school backers are among the largest investors in political campaigns in New York State and have been documented to be major donors for Governor Cuomo, the Senate Republicans and the IDC.
“New York’s insistence on prosecuting our youth as adults impacts tens of thousands of young New Yorkers every year with devastating consequences for young people and their families,” said Angelo Pinto of Justice League NYC and Advancement Project. “Raise the Age is not a political bargaining chip it is a moral necessity from the Bronx to rural communities across the state. Governor Cuomo and the Senate Independent Democrats cannot allow our youth to be forced into trading their constitutional right to a quality public education for the basic human right of not being prosecuted as adults. Raise the Age must become law now. We need Raise the Age legislation in this budget that is real, not watered down to get the optics for a press release without delivering much needed meaningful change.”
“Our children have the constitutional right to a ‘sound basic education’ but Governor Cuomo and the Senate Republican-IDC Coalition are blocking the Foundation Aid needed and trying to divert funding for public schools into charter schools,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “We have long seen overzealous prosecutions of Black & Brown youth, but with the rise of the opioid addiction crisis many more White youth are in line to have their lives ruined as well without Raise the Age. Do the math: underfunded schools plus prosecuting young people as adults. It’s a formula for disaster, but it is the daily nightmare for far too many families. But now we hear that the Senate Republican-IDC Coalition is playing political games with our young people by creating a false linkage between Raise the Age and funding for charter schools. Our communities need a budget that Raises the Age and fully funds our public schools, rather than diverting these funds to charter schools.”