Broadway Performers & Parent Activists Use Drama, Song & Dance to Tell Stories of School Funding Inequities

ALBANY, NY (March 12, 2018) — Broadway performers with the Broadway Advocacy Coalition joined the Alliance for Quality Education and traveled to the New York State Capitol with parents and community members to advocate for equity for Black, Brown and low-income students in state schools on Monday.

In the first of its kind day of Artivism activism in Albany, the group conducted lobby visits that featured short theater pieces acting out narratives of inequity in our schools. At 2:00 P.M. they held a press conference utilizing dramatic monologues, choir performance and dance at the Million Dollar Staircase in the State Capitol Building to make the point about the need for adequate school funding. The event was particularly timely because yesterday Governor Cuomo’s Budget Director issued a long statement attacking adequate and equitable funding in schools and today the houses of the legislature are scheduled to issue their own budget proposals.

The performers sang about New York State’s failure to fund its own equitable funding formula, the Foundation Aid formula, with lyrics that included: “The evidence compels but one conclusion: The poorer the district / And the greater its need / The less the money available […] There is no way / You can repay / Lost school years…”

“The Broadway community is full of artists who are eager to integrate their work as writers and performers with organizations that shift our society towards justice. We at BAC are thrilled to be collaborating with AQE to bring our artivism to the state capital alongside parents and organizers, and to raise broader awareness of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity and the state’s continual inability to follow through with it,” said Ben Wexler, Artistic Director of BAC.

“We want to use the performing arts to engage with lawmakers in a way that puts the story of parents and organizers front and center and encourages empathy as a viable avenue to change! We believe so strongly in the mission of AQE and the work they have been doing, and as professional storytellers we want the stories of these amazing parents, students and organizers not only heard, but respected!” said Zhailon Levingston, Director and Writer with BAC.

“There are real-life consequences to the perpetual underfunding of schools in Black, Brown and low-income communities. The billions of dollars New York owes our schools are more than numbers, they represent closed opportunities that affect students’ entire futures. Underfunding of schools is an integral part of the system of racism and injustice that we came to Albany to fight today. Governor Cuomo and our legislators must recognize their own responsibility in perpetuating educational racism through, and fund equity in our schools now,” said Elzora Cleveland, New York City parent.

“For communities on Long Island, so many parents never have the opportunity to come to Albany or meet their legislators, to tell them what is important to us.  I believe that education is key for the future of our youth and for the future of our nation. All students, no matter their background or their families socioeconomic status, deserve the opportunity to thrive.There is nothing more important than getting our schools the funding they need so they can provide after school programs and the education our youth rightfully deserves,” said Ana Macias, a parent from New Hyde Park, Long Island.

“There are always excuses for why Governor Cuomo and the Senate Republican-IDC Majority will not adequately fund our schools, but the ones who pay the price are our children, especially are Black and Brown students whose schools are the most underfunded,” said Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director, Alliance for Quality Education.

Inequities in state school funding disproportionately affect schools that educate predominantly Black, Brown and low-income students, leaving them unable to offer the same opportunities to their students as wealthy districts. Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature perpetuate this system of educational racism through education policies that fail to provide enough funding to public schools to fulfill students’ right to a “sound, basic education”. New York owes students across the state $4.2 billion in Foundation Aid, according to the New York State Board of Regents.

Participating Broadway performers include: Preston Truman Boyd (The Play that Goes Wrong, Sunset Boulevard, Big Fish, She Loves Me, On the Twentieth Century, and Bullets Over Broadway), Eloise Kropp (Cats, Dames at Sea, On the Town), Joaquina Kalukango (The Color Purple, Godspell, Holler If Ya Hear Me), Zhailon Levingston (Founder, Words on White Movement; featured JAGFest Playwright; associate director to Rachel Chavkin), Britton Smith (Shuffle Along, Bella: An American Tall Tale), Katie Thompson (The Public Theater’s Giant, City Center’s Pump Boys and Dinettes), Allan K. Washington (The Spongebob Musical, CSC’s A Man’s a Man), and Ben Wexler (Music Associate on Broadway’s Fun Home, Violet, and Sundayin the Park With George).