AQE Responds to Cuomo Distortions About CFE & School Funding Equity

 

ALBANY, NY (March 11, 2018) — Today Governor Cuomo’s Budget Director Robert Mujicaissued a long and detailed statement in yet another effort to justify why Governor Cuomo opposes adequate funding for high need schools and to distract public attention from the real issues of educational equity. The Alliance for Quality Education issued the following statement from Billy Easton, Executive Director, in response.

“Gov. Cuomo has consistently resisted adequate funding for high need schools and has used a long series of excuses and misrepresentations of the facts to cover up his lack of commitment to true educational equity and adequacy. The court order in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit was founded on the principle that all schools need adequate funding levels in order to provide every student a ‘sound basic education.’ When Andrew Cuomo was running for office in 2010 he campaigned on the assertion that the state had “yet to fully fund” CFE. He should have known what he was talking about as he was the sitting Attorney General at the time. But it turned out it was just empty campaign rhetoric as ever since getting elected Cuomo has done nothing but make excuses for why he will not fund CFE.

“Cuomo would like the voters to believe he has done great things for our schools — wouldn’t every politician? But the fact is he has done very little. He claims he has increased school funding by 35% but that number is a distortion because it excludes his first year in office when he slashed $1.3 billion from our schools. In fact it took 6 years of Cuomo’s tenure before those cuts, known as the GEA, were fully repaid. Many schools in high needs communities never fully recovered from the cuts which is why Yonkers has 739 students for every one guidance counsellor, fourth- to eighth-graders in Schenectady have over 30 students per class, as do many students in New York City, and across the state schools simply cannot provide English language learners the number of teachers they need.

“Cuomo also ignores inflation—something nobody living in the real world can do. Over the course of Cuomo’s governorship school aid increases have barely exceeded inflation as the following chart demonstrates. The annual inflation adjusted average increases amount to $265 million with only $58 million in Foundation Aid annually. Seventy-four percent of Foundation Aid is owed to school districts with high proportions of Black and Brown students.

  Total School Aid Total Foundation Aid
2010-11 base  $20,666,644,420 $14,893,624,660
Base inflated to 2017-18 dollars $23,260,867,700 $16,763,176,000
2017-18 funding $25,116,655,570 $17,172,763,848
Net Increase including inflation $1,855,787,870 $409,587,848
Net Annual Increase Including Inflation $265,112,552 $58,512,549

“Cuomo is right about one thing, as his budget director says, ‘There are two different education systems in the state, not public and private, but one system for the rich and one system for the poor.’ Cuomo has been using this line for the past eight years, but under Andrew Cuomo the spending gap between rich and poor has grown to record levels of nearly $10,000 per pupil. Under Cuomo New York State ranks 49th in the country when it comes to equitable funding.

“The Foundation Aid formula was the statewide solution to CFE agreed upon by Governor Spitzer and the Legislature in 2007. The Governor and both houses of the legislature were crystal clear in asserting that Foundation Aid was the statewide settlement of CFE—which is no doubt why Attorney General Cuomo agreed with this fact in 2010. But now Cuomo wants to get out of the obligation to adequately fund high need schools. While a 75% distribution going to high need districts is one we can agree with, the problem is that the total amount of funding is far too small to make a real educational difference for high need schools. If Governor Cuomo believes that his proposed funding is large enough then let him explain how it is that it will be enough to cut guidance counselor to student ratios in half in Yonkers, reduce class sizes to 20 in Schenectady and New York City and provide enough teachers for all English language learners in the state. But the fact is that Governor Cuomo is afraid to discuss the real impacts of his budget for high needs students because it represents a failure of leadership on the civil rights issue of our time.”

“In terms of Governor Cuomo’s proposal about requiring transparency and accountability for equity within school districts he is leaving out three key facts. First, the Board of Regents is already in the process of implementing transparent public reporting procedures for spending at the school level. Second, at no point does Mr. Mujica mention that Governor Cuomo’s proposal is to give himself veto power over local school budgets; it is a great big power grab by the Governor’s office. Finally, if the Governor fully funded Foundation Aid and required schools to follow the Contract for Excellence accountability system that goes along with it, then 75% of the new Foundation Aid would go to the highest need schools in each district.”

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