View from the Classroom: Report on Schools Tour Finds That Underfunding is Depriving Students of Educational Opportunities

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 20, 2019) — The Alliance for Quality Education joined Senator Robert Jackson and a number of other state legislators for a press conference Wednesday to present the findings of a statewide school Equity Tour.

Over the past six weeks, Senator Jackson and over a dozen other legislators joined AQE to tour schools across 10 schools districts statewide, including 15 schools in New York City, documenting the on-the-ground impact of school funding inequities on students. The report released Wednesday, titled View from the Classroom: The Reality of Underfunding in New York’s Schools, details the findings of the tour, and provides concrete examples of how chronic underfunding has limited educational opportunities and created challenges for students in communities ranging from large cities to rural areas. Click here to read the complete report.

Highlights include:

  • There exists a severe shortage of student support staff such as social workers, school guidance counselors, and school psychologists.
  • Many schools have libraries without librarians, with only  part-time librarians and/or with libraries that are being used as classrooms and therefore unavailable as libraries;
  • Class sizes are too large often exceeding 25 or 30 students.
  • There is a shortage of computers and other technology and often computers are out-of-date. This is particularly a problem as many low income students told us they lack home computers.
  • There is a shortage of science labs which students require in order to take Regents exams. In one case the students are not able to actually conduct experiments, they only are able to observe their teacher conduct experiments.
  • Many schools are using every available space as classroom space including hallways, breezeways, the principal’s office, auditoriums and closets. Schools also use specialized rooms like libraries and computer labs as classroom space meaning that students cannot access these spaces for their vitally important intended use.

Click here to read the complete report.

This is the first year that both houses of the State Legislature have proposed a plan to fully fund Foundation Aid in their one-house budgets. The State Assembly and Senate both included three year phase-ins to fully fund the $4.1 billion in Foundation Aid that is owed to students and schools based on current state law and in accordance with the statewide solution to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

By contrast, Governor Cuomo proposed a mere $338 million Foundation Aid increase, even though two-thirds of the total unpaid Foundation Aid is owed to schools that are comprised of a majority of students of color. The Governor included no plan to phase in the full Foundation Aid that is owed to students and schools, instead he dismissed this funding as “ghosts of the past and distractions from the present.” The new report from AQE shows exactly how the state’s failure to fund Foundation Aid is haunting our children’s educational opportunities in the present day.

“I have been fighting for fair funding for over 25 years,” said Senator Robert Jackson (31st Senate District). “We’re close to the finish line, but the needs are greater than ever. In the last six weeks, I have toured eight school districts across the state. From Rochester to Long Island, from Schenectady to New York City, I saw that many students are still being denied the ‘sound, basic education’ that is their constitutional right because of the systemic and chronic underfunding of public schools. I saw a school that had an award-winning robotics program in its infancy that was cut for lack of funding. I saw an entire district with no social workers. I saw students learning core subjects in overcrowded classrooms, denied access to art and music and courses that would prepare them for college. We must commit to fully funding public education now. The $1.6 billion in total school aid pledged in the Senate and Assembly one-house budgets are a heartening start toward ensuring our schools are given the $4.1 billion they are owed to ensure a quality education for all New York children,” Senator Jackson concluded.

“Many parts of my district in the Bronx and in Mt. Vernon include high needs schools. In Mt. Vernon, for example, 78% of students are economically disadvantaged. I’ve met those students – they are eager to learn and they just need the support they deserve. So how do we ensure that every student in every zip code gets an excellent education? We already have the answer,” said Senator Alessandra Biaggi (34th Senate District). “The State must meet the requirements of Foundation Aid, including $6 million for Mt. Vernon and $88 million for my district as a whole.”

“I ran for office because my sons’ school is owed almost $2 million every year. I have met with representatives from many schools in my district, all in need of funding for books, more teachers, and more resources to help their students succeed. The schools in my district are some of the most overpopulated schools in New York, and I am committed to fighting for every child as if they were my own. The Senate One House Budget rightfully includes foundation aid and I am committed to fighting with Senator Jackson and AQE to ensure our final budget for this year gives our children the money they are owed” said Senator Jessica Ramos (13th Senate District).

“New York currently ranks 49th in the nation on equity in education spending.  Without adequate resources, schools are not able to properly educate students. Schools like William McKinley Junior High School suffer from chronic, systematic lack of funding that has limited educational opportunities and created serious challenges for students across our state.  As legislators, we play a critical role creating and supporting policies to protect our most vulnerable children. Now, for the very first time, the new political dynamic in Albany means the possibility of fully funding Foundation Aid to correct the years and years of inequity in our educational system.  These much needed resources can help to build more classroom space in our communities, and purchase tablets, smartboards and other cutting edge learning tools,” said Senator Andrew Gounardes (22nd Senate District).  Together with my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly, I’m hopeful that New York State will finally be able to offer a best-in-class 21st Century education to all of our students.”

“The State has a constitutional and moral responsibility to ensure that all of New York’s schools are fully and fairly funded, with the resources to provide quality education to every student in the state. That’s why I fought to increase education funding in the Senate’s one-house budget resolution that was passed last Tuesday,” said Senator Jen Metzger (42nd Senate District).“Ellenville School District alone is owed over $2,600 per student. What we saw during our tour there – no social workers and too few counselors on staff, a lunchroom so small that lunch shifts begin at 10:25 am, and over 9 years without a middle school librarian – made clear that the $4.1 million in Foundation Aid owed to Ellenville schools would have an enormous impact on the programs and opportunities available to these students, 71% of whom are economically disadvantaged.”

“The state had fallen short on its commitments to its neediest students.  Generations of students have been denied an equal playing field with wealthier New Yorkers. There is no way to pay for the potential lost to those who were denied proper funding, but we must fully fund foundation aid to ensure we do not see more talent wasted,” said Assemblyman Phil Ramos (6th Assembly District.)

“The children of New York State have waited long enough for their fair share of educational funding in the fight to comply with the terms of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. We recently toured PS 8 in my district with advocates from AQE, the amazing things that are happening at this school are due to the creativity and ingenuity of its principal who has had to make do with the resources available. Imagine what our children’s education could be if we had our fair share to educate our children instead of having to pick and choose between critically needed educational services,” said Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa (72nd Assembly District).

“The consistent and persistent underfunding of schools that serve students of color is creating an educational, economic and democratic crisis in New York State.  As funding inequities persist, students go without resources, services and supports that they need and the opportunity gap continues to widen. This is unacceptable and is in opposition to our work to ensure that race, economics and disability are never predictors of student achievement,” said Superintendent Laurence Spring, Schenectady City School District.

“As we are in the midst of state budget negotiations and elected officials decide how to fund education and other priorities. We cannot continue to make decisions on education funding based on political deal making to satisfy personal egos. Decisions about education funding have a real impact of students’ lives. The experiences our children have in the classroom today, will directly impact the opportunities they have tomorrow. We can’t ignore the facts, and we can’t ignore the realities in the classroom. We must act now and fully fund educational opportunities for our children now,” said Jasmine Gripper, legislative director, Alliance for Quality Education.

Click here to read the complete report.