AQE Statement on State of the State Address: Our Schools Need Resources Not Rhetoric

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 8, 2020)  The Governor claims he wants to, “raise those at the bottom,” but high need students across New York State have been left without the resources and opportunities they need because of him. Governor Cuomo rightly pointed out the drastic inequity in New York’s public schools. New York currently ranks 49th in the nation on equity in education spending; under Governor Cuomo’s tenure 48 states have more equitable funding than New York State. When you combine local, state and federal funding, wealthy districts outspend poor districts by over $10,000 per pupil. The path to equity is preserving and funding the state’s Foundation Aid formula. But, Governor Cuomo has been the biggest obstacle to funding the formula. In his nine years in office, the Governor has consistently tried to block funding the Foundation Aid formula and ignores the State’s obligations under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

If the Governor really cares about finally achieving equity he would join his colleagues in the Assembly and Senate to support a multi-year commitment to phase-in the $3.8 billion in Foundation Aid owed to public schools. In 2019 both the Senate and Assembly committed to fully funding the Foundation aid formula over a three year phase-in. The only obstacle to investing in equity was Governor Cuomo. We need resources to match Governor Cuomo’s rhetoric. We need the Governor to champion Foundation Aid, not just chant, “raise those at the bottom.” Achieving this is impossible if Governor Cuomo continues to deny the funding owed to our public schools.

It is time to fully fund Foundation Aid, the formula that is the most equitable the state has, but has been long underfunded since Governor Cuomo took office. According to the State Education Department, New York State owes public schools $3.8 billion in Foundation Aid, 70% of which is due to “those on the bottom” as he stated.

It’s been over a decade since the highest court in New York ruled that New York State was underfunding its schools, but it has been far longer that schools serving Black, Brown and low income students have been without the resources they need. Foundation Aid 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. Governor Cuomo, fully fund Foundation Aid to “raise those on the bottom.”