YONKERS, N.Y. (October 16, 2019) — Yonkers parents, school officials, community organizations and State Senator Robert Jackson gathered for a press conference Wednesday morning calling for New York State and the New York State Senate to step up to its obligation to fully fund public schools.
Participants gathered outside Yonkers Public Library before the State Senate began a roundtable examining New York State’s Foundation Aid formula, the formula to calculate school aid fairly and equitably. Twenty-six years ago, as a parent, Robert Jackson sued the state in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit which led to the creation of the Foundation Aid formula.
Senator Jackson stood with Roberto Rijos, President, Yonkers Council of PTA/PTSAs, the Alliance for Quality Education, the New York Immigration Coalition and others to call attention to the fact that New York State has not actually been using or funding the formula since 2009. Instead, each year the state substitutes an amalgamation of temporary formulas to distribute inadequate amounts of funding. According to the State Education Department (SED), New York State currently has yet to deliver $4 billion in Foundation Aid that is owed under state law.
In a report released Wednesday morning, the Alliance for Quality Education lays out the consequences of not using the Foundation Aid formula — and the resulting lack of adequate New York State school aid — for students and communities, particularly in school districts serving Black and Latinx students. It compares the current unmet needs to the progress that school districts were able to make from 2007-2009, the only two years that the State used the formula to calculate school aid. Read the full report here.
The event in Yonkers was the first in a series of roundtables and public hearings of five in coming weeks, organized by Senators Shelley Mayer and Brian Benjamin to assess “how Foundation Aid meets student, district and community needs with the goal of achieving greater equity in school financing.”
Senator Robert Jackson, whose Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit led to the court decision that prompted the creation of Foundation Aid in 2007, said: “We have to keep in mind that the Foundation Aid formula has never been fully funded since 2009. The governor has simply assigned an arbitrary increase in education funding and called it “Foundation Aid.” Good faith conversations about updating the formula based on the needs of the past decade can only occur once we acknowledge the Foundation Aid formula hasn’t been implemented in the first place. We can’t put the carriage before the horse. I hope and expect these roundtables will conclude what advocates have been saying all along: the Foundation Aid formula can’t work when it hasn’t been funded in over a decade, depriving millions of students in New York State the sound basic education they are legally entitled to. Let’s start there.”
“Too often it is the schools that educate large numbers of Black, Brown and low income students that have had to make difficult choices on what they can and cannot offer to their students. We know that when we invest in public education, our children and communities see real benefits in their lives. These roundtables are our opportunity to share our stories of the traumatic impact of funding Foundation Aid in name only. The denial of opportunities to children based on their ZIP code is educational racism, and we’re calling on the State Senate to end it by fully funding our schools,” said Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director of the Alliance for Quality Education.
“Mt. Vernon schools are sorely underfunded due to the state’s failure to use the Foundation Aid formula. This is why my husband and I joined as plaintiffs in the Small Cities school funding lawsuit and we are still waiting for results. Ninety-three percent of our students are Black and Latinx and I look around at nearby communities with a different demographic and I see that their schools have the resources to offer amazing opportunities. Meanwhile in Mt. Vernon our schools have had to make cuts to foreign languages, sports, field trips, and parent engagement. We cannot provide the mental and physical health resources every student needs and in some schools we cannot even afford a school nurse. We need more opportunities from the sciences to career and technical education. We need the state to fully fund Foundation Aid now, that is the way to fix the Foundation Aid formula,” said Kathie Brewington, an advocate from Mt. Vernon who, along with her husband, was a plaintiff in the Small Cities school funding lawsuit.
“Since there are no more after school programs such as athletics and the arts; our students are turning to the streets for the guidance and acceptance that were once provided by these programs,” said London Reyes, Executive Director of the AAA All-Star Program in Yonkers. “What’s even worse, children with issues haven’t been identified; and when they are, it’s too late they end up in prison.”
“When our children are unable to fully reach their potential and thrive in school, it means that we are limiting their contributions to New York in the future. Therefore, the singular most important improvement the state can make in the 2020 legislative session is to implement the real Foundation Aid Formula –– instead of doing so in name only –– by fully funding it. The future of all our children depends on it!” said Vanessa Agudelo, Hudson Valley Manager of Member Engagement for New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC).