30 Year Equity Fight Won in New York State Budget

On April 6, the children of our state won a crucial victory as New York State made a historic commitment to fully fund Foundation Aid for our public schools.

This is the fight that AQE was founded over twenty years ago to win — the fight for adequate and equitable resources for New York’s low income Black and Brown children. The school aid in this year’s state budget has the potential to change the experiences and opportunities our children have in their public schools for years to come.

What we won

The bottom line: 2021-22 school year will kick off with an all-time record of new resources for NY students. New York State will be investing $1.4 billion in state funds to education to fully fund the state’s Foundation Aid formula over the next 2 years. This funding is in addition to the $12 billion in one-time funding from the federal stimulus to help students and schools recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal funds and the increase in state revenue will allow the state to expand Universal Pre-Kindergarten, hire more counselors, reduce class sizes and take significant steps to improve New York’s struggling child care system. The implications for New York’s children are huge: this funding makes it possible for every school to get the resources they need to meet the educational needs of children; for child care providers to remain open.

Check out our complete side by side analysis of the New York State budget for all the details!

Taking time to celebrate

Generations of parents, community leaders and students across New York State, year after year, have led the advocacy to hold New York to the promise of a sound, basic education for every child. Parents, educators and students put their bodies and hearts into this difficult, but necessary fight.

After an impromptu and emotional update the day the budget was finalized, we planned an evening of thanks and celebration to hear from so many of those who were integral to the recent victory for our public schools. Congressman Jamaal Bowman, Senate Education Chair Shelley Mayer, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, joined us, among many others — from some of our oldest allies in the education justice fight, to new friends.

What’s next? Accountability for funding

Just because we won doesn’t mean the work is done — far from it! After taking a well-deserved and much needed week off, the AQE team came back ready to hit the ground running to tackle the immediate challenge facing New York’s schools: how should school districts across the state invest this unprecedented influx of funding? 

To help us begin to answer that question, on April 15 we held a Statewide Accountability town hall with Senator Robert Jackson. Nearly 200 parents, educators, students, and community members joined us for an in-depth 2021 budget analysis and a rich conversation as we together came up with ways that we could ensure our district leaders invest this influx of resources into the areas our communities need and desire. (Our New York City-focused town hall was on May 11.)

In addition, we created a downloadable toolkit on the new funding schools will be getting, and how to hold districts accountable to local communities in how they choose to spend it. And we are in the process of analyzing responses to a survey to help us determine what parents wants to prioritize when advocating for funding. 

And beyond the realm of the budget and school funding, our work continues. With New York City elections on the horizon, we hosted an Education Justice forum for city council candidates on April 15 with New Yorkers for Racially Just Public Schools, a citywide education justice coalition aimed at centering racial equity in policy and budget decisions for public education.

The fight continues

This victory shows the power of the people, the power of never giving up, the power of ‘we,’ and it belongs to all of us. The fight to hold New York State to its obligation to fund public education has always been deeply steeped in racial justice. This has been a long fight, far too long for the tens of thousands of students who were born, educated and grew into adults while waiting for the funding and resources that should never have been denied them. The full funding of Foundation Aid that will be provided to schools over the next three years represents a major step toward racial and economic equity in education. Now, we turn ahead and begin the work to carry educational justice forward.

Press Spotlight

New York Budget Embraces ‘Extraordinary’ Expansion of Child Care and Pre-K, The Imprint

Why School Aid is a Big Deal This Year in the Budget, Spectrum News

NY State Budget Makes “Historic Commitment” To Funding Public Schools, Gothamist

New York state budget pledges to fully fund Foundation Aid formula, AMNY

Needy school districts to benefit from change in state funding, Schenectady Gazette

Dozens of local districts to get pre-K funds for first time, Times Union