In Albany last week, hundreds of parents, teachers and community leaders took to the state capital to urge lawmakers to address the funding gap between rich and poor school districts in New York.
The Parade for Public Education event included parents, students and teachers from across the state who marched around the Capitol. A rally was held on the West Lawn of the Capitol. Speakers called for adequate and equitable funding for education and said that districts couldn’t afford a fifth straight year of cuts when schools are already in crisis. Members of the activist group Educate NY called for $350 million in additional school aid distributed “fairly” by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo based on student need and $203 million in fiscal stabilization funds proposed by Cuomo to be distributed equitably through either the Foundation Formula or the Gap Elimination Adjustment. Members of the Alliance for Quality Education called for the $260 million that Cuomo has threatened to cut due to the teachers’ union and Mayor Michael Bloomberg not agreeing on a new teacher evaluations deal.
“A 4 percent increase last year didn’t save us from devastating classroom cuts, and unless we get at least $350 million in additional funding this year, it will be more of the same,” said Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director at the Alliance for Quality Education. “The cuts to art, music and honor classes–in addition to districts having to reduce summer school and career and technical education–continue to hurt our children and move them further away from being college- and career-ready. We need the governor and legislature to fund our schools now.”
Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, added to Ansari’s sentiments, saying that money is necessary to make sure the state’s neediest students are taken care of.
“The state can no longer hide behind the phrase, ‘Money doesn’t matter,’” said Easton. “As we have seen, money does matter. It matters in the districts that are on the verge of educational insolvency. It matters to the students who are cut out of music, art, sports and after-school programs.”
In 2012, the Cuomo’s budget allocated a 4 percent restoration in aid, and school districts across the state were forced to make sweeping cuts to programs, classes and teachers. This year, the governor proposed a 4.4 percent restoration–the same amount as last year. On Monday, Cuomo reiterated that he wasn’t restoring any funding to New York City because of the evaluation fallout.
“We will not restore the funding for the city of New York the past year,” said Cuomo.
New York City Council Member and Manhattan borough presidential candidate Robert Jackson said that the state of New York needs to put the children of the state first.
“New York is failing its students by not living up to its constitutional obligation to provide every child with a ‘sound basic education,’” said Jackson. “It is imperative that the state live up to its constitutional obligation by funding schools adequately and equitably.”