Celebrating 20 Years of Advocacy

2020 marks AQE’s 20th birthday. In October, we held a (virtual) celebration of our accomplishments and perseverance in this unprecedented year: AQE parents led the fight online and in the streets, for police-free schools, fighting against funding cuts, and ensuring that our communities had a voice in the reopening of schools amidst a global pandemic. 

We were joined by partners, supporters and longtime friends from throughout our two decades of advocacy, including Jamaal Bowman, Democratic Nominee 16th Congressional District; Thomas P. DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller; and Cynthia Nixon and Christine Marinoni who co-chaired the event.

We shared stories and celebrated our honorees, Luis Torres, Principal, Community School 55; Leanne Nunes, Executive College Director, IntegrateNYC; and the Rochester Community Task Force. And at a time that many are feeling the emotional impact of a challenging year and of physical isolation, we were able to come together for an evening of reflection and hope, with uplifting performances from Rochester student Sarah Adams, performing and visual artist Jazmine Hayes, and the Resistance Revival Chorus. 

Our Friends Help to Fundraise for AQE

Meah Pace, whose single “I Hope” is the beautiful soundtrack to the video linked above, is donating 50% of proceeds from the sale of her “I Hope” t-shirts and sweatshirts to AQE through the end of the year.

Lingua Franca is donating 20% of proceeds from its new “back to school” collection to the Alliance for Quality Education. 

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Just a few short weeks from the start of a new school year, new challenges and additional costs, the New York State Department of Budget announced that it was considering a 20 percent cut in school aid.

A 20 percent reduction in school aid — $5.7 billion overall — would be disproportionately cut from high need school districts, serving New York’s largest populations of Black and Brown students. A 20 percent cut in state aid would translate to a $2,626 per student cut in high need  districts. We released a report, Set Up to Fail: How Cuomo’s School Cuts Target New York’s Black & Brown Students, showing how Governor Cuomo’s pandemic-era policies continue a trend of balancing the state’s budget at the expense of the educational resources and opportunities for Black, Brown and low-income students. 

On September 12, parents, community leaders, and students held simultaneous rallies and car caravans in Buffalo, Rochester, Utica, Albany, Kingston, the Bronx and Yonkers to protest the Governor’s threat to withhold 20 percent of state school aid. A car caravan with participants from New York City also visited the offices of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in the Bronx and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in Yonkers, calling on New York State’s leaders to stand up for public schools. Online, more than 4,500 people signed a petition urging State officials to speak out against the cut.

Our rapid mobilization worked: we stopped the cuts! On September 17, the state announced that it would make the payments to schools in full — at least for the month of September. The parents and community members who fought so hard to stop the cuts were able to take a collective, if temporary, deep breath of relief, and ready ourselves for the fight yet to come.

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Parent & Leadership Development: Freedom Summer 2020

In the tradition of Black August, AQE launched a new parent leadership training program. Freedom Summer 2020 was created by Asamia Diaby, AQE’s New York City Campaigns Associate, as a month-long political education experience to build a strong contingent of parent leaders who are committed to education justice. The weekly topics covered racial justice, racial capitalism, gender justice, disability justice, and all their intersections in working toward education for liberation. Our first session was facilitated by Rasheedah Harris, a graduate of the first cohort of AQE’s other New York City-based parent leadership program, Education Warriors.

The inaugural program was a resounding success. Freedom Summer was conceived as a space for participants to collectively dream and work towards a new world together, while challenging systems of oppression for the students who are oftentimes marginalized when they should be leading the fight for education justice. We received overwhelming interest in participating, with nearly 100 applicants for just 35 available slots. Next steps for Freedom Summer are looking at ways to scale the program and make the curriculum available to more people.

Online Advocacy for Pre-K and Child Care

In addition to trying to cut education funding, Governor Cuomo is separately working to push through a minimum 20 percent cut to state funding that would devastate prekindergarten, preschool special education, child care and after-school services in New York State.

AQE has been working closely with our organizational partners in child care and Early Childhood Education coalitions to prevent these cuts from becoming a reality. We know that across-the-board cuts will have a disproportionate and devastating impact on Black and Latinx children, children from immigrant families, children who are homeless, and children with developmental delays and disabilities. These cuts would balance the budget at the expense of working families, and the educators and caregivers who work in these programs — mostly Black and Brown women who support our youngest learners each day.

In October AQE helped organize online days of action for child care and Early Childhood Education, which saw more than 1,000 individuals taking action to raise awareness of these critical services, and the funding crises they are currently facing.

Publications & Announcements

Set Up to Fail: How Cuomo’s School Cuts Target New York’s Black & Brown Students shows how Governor Cuomo’s pandemic-era policies continue a trend of balancing the state’s budget at the expense of the educational resources and opportunities for Black, Brown and low-income students. 

Sickness, Death & Cuts: The impact of COVID-19 on Long Island Students co-authored by the Alliance for Quality Education and Long Island Progressive Coalition, breaks down the overlap in COVID-19 infection rates and the chronic underfunding of public schools in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

White paper: “Trump, DeVos and Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo Provide Funding for Privately Run Charter Schools, While Starving Public Schools of Much Needed Aid.” This paper shows that even as public schools face a 20 percent cut in state aid, school districts will still be mandated to pay 100 percent of tuition for publicly funded, privately run charter schools.

AQE Advocacy Director Zakiyah Ansari was selected as a 2020 Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity by Columbia University, a transnational network of leaders working across issues and geography to end anti-Black racism and white supremacy.

Press Spotlight

The Nation cites AQE’s latest report, Set Up to Fail, in this article about Governor Cuomo’s proposed cuts to public schools.

Mohammad Ahmad, a teacher in the Bronx, worked with AQE in writing an op-ed in City Limits calling for additional funding for city schools: “Open, Hybrid or Fully Remote, NYC Schools Need Aid, Not Austerity.

Jasmine Gripper’s op-ed in the Times Union, “Here’s a way to help schools close the opportunity gap,” calls for New York State to increase taxes on the wealthy to ensure schools receive the resources they need.

Jasmine Gripper also co-authored an op-ed with Ian Rosenblum from the Education Trust for Newsday on the need for school reopening plans to prioritize anti-racist policies and equity.

AQE is supporting our partners at the Coalition for Educational Justice in launching Liberation School, a free resource to help parents and students adjust to remote learning.

Media outlets in cities across the state reported on our actions to prevent Cuomo’s cuts in September, including Albany, Schenectady, Kingston, Utica, the Bronx and Rochester.