Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Statement

What does Governor Cuomo Need to do in his Budget Tomorrow to Live Up to his Commitment to Educational Equity?

January 15, 2018

Dear Members of the New York State Legislature and Representatives of the Press:

Governor Cuomo vowed to bring equity in education. He said:

“We must address education funding inequities and dedicate more of our state school aid to poorer districts.” State of the State, January 3rd, 2018. 

But actions speak louder than words. Over the last seven years, Governor Cuomo has not backed his words with action. Consistently and systematically, he has proposed budgets with inadequate amounts of funding for Foundation Aid or proposed eliminating Foundation Aid altogether in attempt to erase the commitment the state made to schoolchildren in 2007. The 2007 commitment was a promised by the state to infuse equitable funding to enable educational opportunity for underserved students, particularly Black, Brown and low income students. 

As Assemblymember Phil Ramos said last week addressing hundreds of parents, students, and teachers “What we’re fighting for is much more than just your education and for you to have an opportunity…You are at the forefront of the modern-day civil rights struggle. [R]acism has gone underground and modern-day cross burning is done with a calculator, it’s done with a formula.” 

The Governor will release his budget proposal tomorrow. How will we know if it is equitable? An equitable budget proposal must include adequate funding equitably distributed; anything less would mean denying opportunity and justice equitably. Black, Brown and low income students have been denied opportunity for long enough. The budget proposal must fund schools adequately to enable them to:

  • provide culturally responsive education where students’ diversity of history, culture and race is reflected in their education;
  • foster a safe and supportive school climate free from harassment, bullying and discrimination; 
  • recruit and retain teachers from diverse backgrounds;
  • provide engaging and challenging curricula, programming and services through sustainable community schools;
  • provide a strong foundation for our youngest learners through high quality child care and full-day pre-K programs.

A state budget proposal that is based on equity must ensure that Black, Brown and low income students have the resources they have been denied that would close the opportunity gap. New York State owes schools across the state $4.2 billion. Seventy-four percent (74%) of Foundation Aid owed is due to school districts with 40% or more Black and Brown students.  

Currently, there is a $7,229 gap between the districts that have 40 percent or more Black and Brown students and the 100 wealthiest school districts. This gap would be reduced by $2,067 if the all the Foundation Aid owed to these students was provided. This is the kind of funding that allows schools to hire and train teachers, social workers, school counselors, and psychologists; implement community schools; expand pre-K; and implement reforms for a more positive school climate. 

The time is now for New York Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to address the systemic racism and economic inequality in education and to move our state forward on the path to equity. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”  New York’s students have been waiting over a decade for education justice. A generation of students have already lost out on the unfilled promise of education justice and equity. In 2007, as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the State committed to provide $5.5 billion in Foundation Aid increases over four years. The State provided only two years of the commitment before Governors Paterson and Cuomo cut $2.7 billion in 2010 and 2011. Governor Cuomo likes to say that he has increased education funding, but the numbers tell a different story.  Year after year he has only kept up with inflation without providing for the improvements need for equity. The Governor’s budget must fully fund equity in 2018 by committing to the full Foundation Aid phase-in and he must protect our state’s students.  

Sincerely,

Hazel Dukes
President, NAACP New York State Conference

Jamaal Bowman
Principal, Cornerstone Academy Middle School

Zakiyah Ansari 
Advocacy Director, Alliance for Quality Education

Jonathan Westin
Executive Director, New York Communities for Change

Carmen Perez
Executive Director, The Gathering for Justice & Co-Chair, Women’s March

Ivette Alfonso
Board President, Citizen Action of New York

Pastor Michael Walrond
First Corinthian Baptist Church

Javier H. Valdés
Co-Executive Director, Make the Road New York