New York parents are struggling dealing with the challenges created by school closures, remote learning and limited access to adequate tools and supports. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of students are enrolled in remote learning, but do not have a laptop. Access to high speed internet continues to be a problem for students and educators in urban cities and rural areas. Schools in high poverty districts across New York State have been forced to lay off hundreds of educators due to a shortfall in state funding. Watch the 2021 Parents’ State of the State to hear what parents across the state want for public schools in the coming year.
Will Governor Cuomo provide schools with desperately needed funding boost — especially since the recent federal aid package is providing an additional $4 billion for K-12 education? And will he address the decades-old equity divide exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic?
- The federal stimulus package
New York state will receive $4 billion for K-12 education from Congress to help provide the resources and tools students need to get through this crisis. This funding is especially important for our public schools because the federal school aid that was previously included in the CARES Act — the stimulus package that Congress passed last March — was negated by an equal-sized cut that Governor Cuomo and New York State pushed through in the final minutes of budget negotiations last March. You can see how much each school district lost in that cut (the “Pandemic adjustment”) here.
The federal aid package will give New York’s public schools the resources to ensure that every student engaged in remote learning has a laptop and is connected to high speed internet, to update or repair their HVAC systems, to hire school nurses, guidance counselors, psychologists and social workers to address students’ health and social needs caused by the trauma from this pandemic. But for public schools to receive the relief they so badly need and for the stimulus money to have its intended impact, Governor Cuomo cannot not use this as an opportunity to cut from the state’s education budget.
- Child care
New York State is also slated to receive almost $450 million in new child care funding as part of the new relief package. The state has to act more swiftly than it did with the previous relief package to get this funding out to providers and to families that need subsidized child care. This crucial funding will ensure essential workers have access to the childcare services they need, and childcare providers are able to keep the doors to their businesses open.
- Raising revenues
COVID has exacerbated existing problems and inequity in public schools. While the federal stimulus will alleviate the worst impacts of the pandemic this year, it is only a one-time influx; it will not address the chronic problems in how New York funds its public schools year after year.
New York State is facing a budget deficit, but the costs of the pandemic are not being shared by all New Yorkers. Since this crisis began the ultra wealthy have multiplied their wealth by billions of dollars. Instead of trying to balance the budget by cutting funding to public schools, New York should raise revenue by taxing the income on the top 5 percent.
Already New York State has cut state funding for schools during the pandemic. For New York’s schools to avoid a funding cliff next year, the State Legislature must take action to create a stable and recurrent source of funding for our public schools. New York must raise revenues to build a solid foundation that will continue to fund schools year after year.