NEW YORK, N.Y. (December 3, 2019) — Parents, school officials and community organizations rallied Tuesday morning for New York State to fully fund public schools, as the State Senate convened a public hearing on school funding nearby.
Over the past several weeks, Senate Education Committee Chair Shelley Mayer organized roundtable discussions in locations around the state to hear from parents, superintendents, and educators about the state’s school funding formula, the Foundation Aid formula. Participants at every event expressed the importance of using the formula to fund public schools, which New York State has not used or funded since 2009.
Instead, each year the state substitutes an amalgamation of temporary formulas to distribute inadequate amounts of funding, resulting in massive shortfalls in funding to school districts that impact the opportunities they are able to provide to students. According to the State Education Department (SED), New York State currently has yet to deliver $4 billion in Foundation Aid that is owed under state law.
With legislators due to return to Albany next month, parents and educators called on state representatives to make funding the $4 billion that the state currently owes to public schools a top priority in 2020. The state legislature needs to provide leadership to ensure that there are the resources needed to fully fund Foundation Aid by passing progressive revenue proposals such as expanding taxes on millionaires and billionaires and taxing corporate greed.
With the funding, New York City could bring all their schools to 100% in Fair Student Funding, a formula created to help distribute money equitably across the city.
“The underfunding of schools in predominantly Black and Brown districts goes hand-in-hand with the criminalization and incarceration of our youth. New York state is engaging in a form of educational racism by denying our schools funding for guidance counselors, arts programs, librarians and social support services while allocating over $40 million for police officers in schools to arrest and incarcerate students. Fully funding our schools using the Foundation Aid Formula is necessary to address the inequity and discrimination that continues to impact our Black and Brown youth,” said Carmen Perez, CEO of The Gathering for Justice and Co-Founder of Justice League NYC.
“It has been said time and again during these roundtables, but it bears repeating: the Foundation Aid formula has never been fully funded since 2009. The governor has simply assigned an arbitrary increase in education funding and called it ‘Foundation Aid.’ Good faith conversations about updating the formula based on the needs of the past decade can only occur once we acknowledge the Foundation Aid formula hasn’t been implemented in the first place. We can’t put the carriage before the horse. Some tweaks can be made, but these roundtables have concluded what advocates have been saying all along: the Foundation Aid formula can’t work when it hasn’t been funded in over a decade, depriving millions of students in New York State the sound basic education they are legally entitled to. Let’s start there,” said State Senator Robert Jackson.
“Public schools in our diverse North Brooklyn district from Bushwick and Bed-Stuy to Cypress Hills are owed $60 million in State funding. We join our partners at AQE in demanding that our State fulfill its obligation to equitably fund our public schools using the original Foundation Aid formula,” said State Senator Julia Salazar.
“As a parent, every day I watch my kids go to a school that doesn’t meet basic standards. Years of being underfunded have left Buffalo’s schools lacking in the tools and staff needed to prepare our kids for college. It will take years for our district to recover and we cannot wait any longer for New York State to begin fully funding our schools,” said Desmond Nalls of the District Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo, NY.
“In our district alone, the state owes us $44 million in school funding. Here’s what $44 million could do for the students of Utica: Give us proper bathroom stalls that actually lock. Give each student a textbook to read from on our own instead of sharing one along with two other people. Give us desks with seats that aren’t broken. And hire more teachers who can provide their support in our learning instead of laying them off due to budget cuts. Basic necessities like these should be met, but instead students are being deprived of them. Many people say that this generation is our future – but right now this generation is being set up to fail,” said Naysha Galvez, Proctor High School senior in Utica, NY.
“It’s unacceptable that the Rochester City School District is even considering making classroom cuts in our schools. This is a high poverty district and our students need all the support possible. New York owes Rochester Schools $85 million in Foundation Aid. Instead of cutting services for students, and further reducing educational opportunities, the Governor and State Legislature must immediately and fully fund the Foundation Aid owed to our schools,” said Mercedes Phelan, Lead Organizer for Citizen Action of New York in Rochester, NY.
“Across the populations we serve, we see a need for more academic support, including evidence-based literacy instruction, as well as social-emotional support. Given the unmet needs of students in New York City and throughout the State, we continue to be disappointed that Foundation Aid funding falls far short of the amount owed pursuant to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. New York City alone is owed more than $1 billion. Increased funding is needed to support NYC’s students and help address the inequities we see and the barriers students face in achieving school success,” said Kim Sweet of Advocates for Children.
“Across the city, MLLs lack access to quality programs, which are critical to addressing the dropout rate and boosting graduation rates. Much of the focus about segregation and exclusion has missed a major systemic challenge for immigrant learners, namely that resource disparities leave districts ill-equipped to serve high needs Multilingual Learners. Schools are best positioned to address systemic racism and integrate immigrant learners in our communities, but pursuing these goals will be impossible without fully funding the Foundation Aid Formula,” said Andrea Ortiz of the New York Immigration Coalition.