Cynthia Nixon, State Legislators & the Alliance for Quality Education Lay Out Vision for Educational Equity

Gov. Cuomo’s “Plan” is a Distraction From the State’s Responsibility

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 22, 2019) — Actor, former gubernatorial candidate and Alliance for Quality Education spokesperson Cynthia Nixon joined state legislators and parents to lay out expectations for education in the 2019-20 State budget. They emphasized the need to fully fund public schools through the State’s Foundation Aid formula, with the goal of providing schools with the resources they need for every child to receive a quality education.

In contrast, Governor Cuomo’s proposed solution to educational inequity, which he laid out in his executive budget address last week, would require high needs school districts to take money away from very high poverty schools and redistribute it to even higher poverty schools. A report from AQE released last week shows that the state’s high need school districts have very few or zero wealthy schools, contrary to the Governor’s assertions, and called his proposal an “education equity hoax” that is intended to divert attention from the state’s own responsibility.

“This Governor acts like we cannot afford to do more for our children; we cannot afford to do more for children in poverty; we cannot afford to do more for children of color and immigrant children. Here’s what we can’t afford. We can’t afford to let another generation of children’s dreams be deferred, because a dream deferred is a dream denied. We must educate New York’s students as if they were all our children, because they are. And now that we finally have a true Democratic majority in Albany — we cannot afford to wait. It’s time to fully fund every school, in every zip code,” said Cynthia Nixon, actor, former gubernatorial candidate and AQE spokesperson.

“Although it’s nice to finally hear about equitable funding of public education from Governor Cuomo, his paltry $338 million in Foundation Aid is an insult to our children. The Foundation Aid formula must be fulfilled. My colleagues in the Senate and I will continue fighting until our schools are given the $4.1 billion they are owed to ensure a quality education for all New York children. I intend to see first-hand the conditions in which our children are learning statewide through a fact-finding tour my office will be putting together, and I encourage my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to join me,” said Senator Robert Jackson, District 31.

“It is our responsibility to provide our children the resources they need to have the quality education they deserve. By equitably and fully funding all schools across our State, especially those low performing schools in underserved, high need communities, we will play an essential role in reducing the unfair achievement gap that exists among our State’s students,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “That’s why we must adequately fund Foundation Aid if we are serious in our goal to set up all schools and students in New York for success.”

Senator Jessica Ramos, District 13, said, “The Governor’s budget proposal falls far short of providing the funding our schools need. His new assertion that the real inequity is within school districts only attempts to distract us from the $4 billion he has yet to provide. It is a mandate and a court order and I will continue to do whatever it takes to get our public schools the funding they need and to bring educational equity to New York.”

Senator Alessandra Biaggi, District 34, said, “Every child in every zip code deserves a quality education, regardless of where they were born or where they live. Education is a basic freedom, and a human right. The inequitable funding we see in the schools serving poorer communities is not solely the fault of the school districts. We need to invest in our children on all levels and fully funding Foundation Aid is one step in the right direction. Continuing to underfund high needs public schools while increasing funding for private schools and privatizing charter schools is not the way to prepare our most impoverished students. We need to be strategic in properly funding our public schools, to make sure New York state continues to have a competitive workforce in the decades to come.

“Our state government has an obligation to make sure that our public schools are fully and fairly funded, with the resources to provide a quality education to every student in the state, including to our rural and small-city districts. An over-reliance on local property taxes creates geographic imbalances in education funding and is inherently regressive. State funding is critical to ensuring that all students in New York have the same opportunities to receive a high-quality public education and reach their full potential, regardless of their zip code. It’s time to pay what’s owed in Foundation Aid, with a phase-in over three years,” said State Senator Jen Metzger, District 42.

“The facts about our state’s student poverty levels have been twisted to justify an inadequate budget proposal. The equation continues to ignore the shortfall in overall statewide funding. Bottom line is that the court-mandated Foundation Aid formula must be fully phased in and funded,” said Senator John Liu, District 11.

Senator Julia Salazar, District 18, said, “Our public schools in Brooklyn as well as throughout New York state must have proper funding to meet the goal of providing a high quality education to all children. Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget fails to dedicate equitable funding for all of our public schools. Anything less than a commitment to fully fund Foundation Aid is simply unacceptable.”

“This proposal increases funding for private schools and privately run charter schools which amounts to disinvesting in our public school system. I support the Board of Regents plan to increase funding for English Language Learners and do not support continuing to underfund high needs public schools. I think all parties should come to the table and construct a budget that does justice to all of the students of the state of New York,” said Assemblymember Phil Ramos, District 6.

“The executive budget proposal skimps on education funding, fails to fund the constitutionally mandated ‘sound basic education’ guaranteed to New York’s children, redistributes funds from poor schools to very poor schools, and pressures municipalities to increase the very same local property taxes which the Executive has capped,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, District 52. “This is not progressive — it’s a squeeze play. I’m grateful to the Alliance for Quality Education for their continued efforts to ensure an equitable education for all students.”

Assemblyman Ron Kim, District 40, said, “When you hear that young people believe the American Dream is slipping away, look no further than the governor’s latest budget proposal to see why. He has chosen to ignore systemic disparities within our public school system, caused by massive inequities between school districts and give only $338 million of the $1.66 billion requested and the $4 billion owed in Foundation Aid. He is simultaneously choosing to divert finite resources into private and charter schools. As a state, we must take a stand: either we believe that every child, no matter their zip code, deserves the opportunity to fulfill their true potential, or that certain children are destined for a lifetime of missed opportunities based on nothing more than where they were born and live. I cannot in good conscience approve of his proposal, and thank the Alliance for Quality Education for leading the charge in holding him accountable.”   

“Governor Cuomo refuses to pay the $4.2 billion owed to Black and Brown and poor schools across the state. He’s proposing an unconscionable and unacceptable $338 million in Foundation Aid. The New York State Board of Regents says we need a $2.2 billion increase to pay the bills and make a downpayment on CFE and he’s only proposing an increase of $956 million. The Governor continues to project a progressive front, when he’s fiscally conservative and proposes a budget that harms poor Black and Brown families in this State. The New York State total budget is over $176 billion, we need a multi-billion dollar anti-poverty program for the poor working families of this state, particularly for Black and Brown families. Show us the money Governor or shut up! I’m calling on the new majority Democratic Senate and Democratic Assembly to check the Governor and prioritize the struggling families and communities of this state when it comes to budget negotiations,” said Assemblyman Charles Barron, District 60.

“When Governor Cuomo tries to pin the blame for educational inequity on local school districts he is simply passing the buck. The real inequity that exists is between wealthy and poor school districts.  The solution is to follow existing state law and fully fund foundation aid. The Assembly has always been there, now the Senate is there. It’s time for the Governor to get on board,” said Assemblymember Harvey Epstein, District 74.

“Ensuring that every child receives a quality education has always been a top priority of mine. I am committed to seeking a significant increase in funding for public education, the very cornerstone of our democracy,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee. “We must close the gaps that exist in our schools and provide equal educational opportunities and the resources all students need to succeed by phasing-in the Foundation Aid formula, adequately funding programs for English Language Learners and increasing our investment in high need schools across the state. It is essential that we provide our schools with the funding they need to prepare all students for successful careers and equal opportunities to compete in our global economy. Our children’s future and the economic future of New York State depend on it.”

“By refusing to fund New York’s public schools fairly, Governor Cuomo is telling Black, Brown, and low-income children that they’ll just have to settle for less. Our communities are tired of settling for less and tired of the broken promises. The Governor needs to take responsibility for the chronic underfunding of our public schools and deliver on the $4.1 billion owed to our highest-need districts,” said Rosemary Rivera, AQE Board Chair and Co-Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York.

“Governor Cuomo doesn’t want educational equity — if he did he would have listened to the stories of the Black and Brown parents and students we bring up to Albany every year since he’s been governor. Instead he ignores them and won’t admit that the state isn’t doing enough for Black and Brown children. New York’s public school students do not have enough, because every day we see what they need and what they still don’t have in their classrooms. Our state legislators have an opportunity this year to truly prioritize equity in public education by fully funding the $4.1 billion New York owes to schools!” said Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director, Alliance for Quality Education.

The Board of Regents, and the Alliance for Quality Education, have both called for a $1.66 billion increase in Foundation Aid this year and a three year phase-in of the $4.1 billion in Foundation Aid owed under current state law. The Foundation Aid formula, enacted in response to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, was designed to ensure that all schools statewide have the resources needed to ensure every student receives the “sound, basic education” that New York State’s constitution guarantees. By contrast, Cuomo is proposing a mere $338 million increase in Foundation Aid and opposes a full phase-in of this funding. His policies shortchange high need small city, rural and suburban school districts.