Cuomo’s fake progressivism damaging education in NYS

ZAKIYAH ANSARI, Alliance for Quality Education | 4/27/2017, 1:15 p.m.
New York State is thought to be a leader in liberal and progressive culture all around the world. But what ...
Andrew Cuomo Pat Arnow

New York State is thought to be a leader in liberal and progressive culture all around the world. But what the world doesn’t know is that our great state has upheld practices of systemic racism and economic inequity for our children for decades.

Governor Cuomo has utilized this idea of progressivism to mask his penny-pinching policies and the ways they perpetuate systemic racism. He likes to claim to be a warrior for the working class who is fighting back against Trump, while in fact bringing harm to the very communities that depend on our state government to stand up for them.

This past budget cycle was filled with drama and theatrics, but very little progressive politics. Cuomo was busy polishing his image for what seems to be a very likely presidential race in 2020, while Senate Republicans and their partners the Independent Democratic Conference sought to block legislation that would aid our most vulnerable communities.

New York State owes its students $4.3 billion in Foundation Aid according to a lawsuit settled more than a decade ago. This year the Board of Regents of the State Education Department recommended a $1.47 billion increase in Foundation Aid—aid geared toward ensuring vulnerable poor, Black and Brown communities have a school budget adequate enough to address the unique needs of their communities.

Yet in this year’s budget talks Cuomo, the Senate Republicans and Senate IDC members’ anti-public education priorities shone through.

Cuomo initially sought to rid our budget of the Foundation Aid formula in its entirety. Senate Republicans and IDC members’ proposal distorted the formula to the extent that students with special needs, poverty levels and English Language learner status—the three groups of students with the highest needs—were basically non-factors in how much aid a district would receive. Their version of the formula also sought to specifically shaft big cities, including New York City, which is owed $1.9 billion, nearly half of the money owed across the state.

Curiously enough, IDC members, legislators elected as Democrats who chose to join a coalition with the Republicans, worked hard to convince their Democratic constituents that they indeed were standing up for them, when in fact they empowered Republicans who are openly politically aligned with Donald Trump. They also lobbied hard for yet more charter school funding, even though a new report has shown that charter schools have a $400 million surplus of funds, instead of advocating for the full payout and phase-in of the billions owed to public school students, who are the overwhelming majority of students statewide.

In New York City, Marisol Alcantara, Jesse Hamilton and Jose Peralta caught a lot of heat not only for joining the IDC but also for being people of color, representing districts largely consisting of people of color, yet empowering Republicans and policies that would specifically hurt people of color.

IDC members like to claim that their conference puts them in a position to be deciding factors in our budget. Yet, when choosing to caucus with the Republicans whose leader has publicly endorsed Trump it becomes clear whose side they are on.

Cuomo is not off the hook either. His clear anti-public education policies and his “fiscally conservative” practices have deprived public school students of more money than Trump possibly could.

This year, the enacted budget gave only half of the funding deemed necessary for Black, Brown and low-income students across the state to have access to an adequate education, with no schedule to phasein the remainder of the monies owed.

Neither Cuomo nor his Senate Republican and IDC allies have done their job to stand up for the communities that need them most. Instead they supported education policies that perpetuate the cycle of racism and oppression for Black, Brown and poor students. It will not be forgotten come next election cycle.