Utica, NY- Parents, students and community members rallied at the Utica State Office Building, Friday February 14, to demand lawmakers fund the collective $57 million owed to the Utica and Rome City School Districts in Foundation Aid. Advocates were accompanied by various supporters including Citizen Action of New York, Alliance for Quality Education, NYSUT Retiree Council 8, Utica District Administration, Rob Wood of the Rome Teacher Association, Evon Ervin and Anthony LaPolla from the Utica City School Board.
The press event featured speakers from named organizations, with a powerful statement from Aemani Barton, a student of the Utica School District. Following the conference, parents, students, and community members delivered a box of handmade Valentines for public education to the office of Assemblymember Marriane Buttenschon asking lawmakers to “have a heart, fund our schools.”
The Valentines, handmade by students in Rome and Utica called for full funding of the $44 million in Foundation Aid owed to Utica City Schools and $13 million owed to Rome City Schools. Without Foundation Aid, schools across New York state have been unable to fund the basic operating costs necessary to provide the education all students deserve.
“We are not just a line item in the budget. When you don’t fund our schools, we are the ones who suffer the consequences,” said Aemani Barton, Seventh Grader at Donovan Middle School. “We don’t have textbooks for our schools here in Utica, we don’t have locks on our bathrooms, there’s not enough funding for healthy lunch items, we don’t have enough school supplies or up-to-date learning lessons. Governor Cuomo and the state legislature need to tax the rich and fund our schools.”
“The New York State budget is a $180 billion statement of priorities. The idea that our schools can’t have the $44 million we are owed here in Utica is just simply not acceptable. The state needs to keep its promise and fully fund our schools,” said James Paul, Parent Leader at Citizen Action.
“Public education is about social justice,” said Jan Corn of NYSUT Retiree Council 8. “All public schools should be able to provide their children with needed opportunities and programs to succeed. The billions of dollars of promised Foundation Aid, not delivered, is desperately needed to equalize these opportunities.”
“All children deserve the best education possible, regardless of their zip code,” said Evon Ervin, Vice President of the Utica City School Board. “40 million dollars would go a long way for the City of Utica.”
“The Utica City School District has been underfunded by $44.8 million dollars by New York State. This is unacceptable. As a school board member, it is my job to partner with our community leaders to ensure that we secure the funding owed to us. Our students deserve outstanding programs, new textbooks, school supplies, the best technology, and upgraded facilities to ensure that they get the best education possible,” said Anthony LaPolla, Member of the Utica City School Board. Our educators too need this funding, so they have the opportunities to succeed in their career while educating our children. This is the generation for our future, and we cannot set them up to fail!”