At Time of Greatest Need, New York's Lawmakers Abandon Students & Families 1

At Time of Greatest Need, New York’s Lawmakers Abandon Students & Families

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 1, 2020) — Governor Cuomo announced that he and the New York State legislature have reached a three way agreement on a final budget. The budget bills, which are expected to be voted on later today, would flat-fund public education. In response, the public education advocacy organization Alliance for Quality Education released the following statement:

“The New York State legislature and Governor Cuomo are ready to pass a budget that will devastate the lives of children and families that are already experiencing trauma and uncertainty in this pandemic. Students will return to somber schools, stripped of resources and opportunities,” said Jasmine Gripper, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education.

“Many students will have experienced personal trauma, with the illness or death of close family members; others will be responding to the stress of dislocation, insecurity or poverty from the loss of a parent’s job. Everyone in the school community will be processing the collective trauma and lasting effects of the pandemic, many of which we cannot yet predict. Through illness, death and a financial crisis, children will need more support, not less.”

“Coronavirus has laid bare the inequities in our institutions and our communities, because the ability to adhere to social distancing is itself the sum of many privileges: of work that can be done from anywhere, home internet and devices, space in that home, having a home to be in at all; health insurance, access to private transportation, and the space and resources to stock up for weeks on end. New York’s students in high need communities, heavily reliant on state aid, are going to feel the greatest educational strain as a result of this crisis. Divesting from their education now could cause life long setbacks from limited opportunities and untapped potential.” 

“There is never going to be an excuse that can justify New York denying the right to a quality education to many Black and Brown children. There are 112 billionaires in New York that have a combined wealth of $525 billion — almost 5 times New York State’s annual budget. A small tax on New York’s ultra rich would close the budget deficit, without sacrificing our children and their future.”

“Budgets are about priorities, and Governor Cuomo has made it crystal clear that his own priorities lie with protecting his wealthy donors from paying — not protecting the constitutional rights of Black and Brown children to receive a quality education. This immoral budget, failing our children is the joint responsibility of Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. They see the suffering in our communities, and they have chosen to ignore it. This budget is an insult to our children. It looks them in the face, and tells them that they don’t matter.”

“New York’s chronic underinvestment in Black, Brown and low-income communities — from the underfunding of public schools, to the cuts to public hospitals — has left them vulnerable to crises like this one. The fight for justice is in no way new to the time of coronavirus; it is one of the oldest fights in our nation. But the pandemic has driven these inequities to the headlines, as our leaders scramble to contain the virus. Though long overdue, the conversation is now happening: how do students keep up without technology at home? How will students with disabilities experience remote learning? The Governor himself resisted closing schools because of a completely valid concern that children would go hungry if we did. These inequities existed long before COVID-19; the pandemic only deepens the divide. The extended school closures and the lack of new investment in schools means New York’s children are left holding the short end of the stick in this pandemic.”