Queens residents will march to Senator Peralta’s office on Saturday to demand money for public schools

Photo via Facebook/Peralta4Queens

A group of constituents who live in Jackson Heights will march to State Senator Jose Peralta’s office on Saturday to demand that the upcoming state budget include billions of dollars that are owed to city schools due to a 2006 court case.

Peralta, a Democrat, announced earlier this year that he would be caucusing with the Independent Democratic Caucasus (IDC). The IDC caucuses on its own, but is known to work with Senate Republicans — and some argue that the group of 8 senators makes it difficult for the State Senate to pass progressive legislation.

Honor Mosher, a Jackson Heights resident and mother of a public school student, helped to organize the March for Public Schools, which will start at P.S. 69 77-02 37th Ave. and the group will head over to Peralta’s office at 32-37 Junction Blvd. The march will begin at 12 p.m. on March 25.

“As you know, Peralta left caucusing with the Democrats and a lot of us who are constituents of his are very upset by this,” she said. “He made it sound like it was just the way he had to work now by compromising but he’s throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

The Republican Party, along with the IDC, released a budget for the upcoming fiscal year and Mosher argued that the budgets were too similar – especially the lack of funding for New York City schools. In 2006, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v State of New York court ruling found that city public schools were underfunded and ruled that Albany pay $5.6 billion in operating aid or what is called Foundation Aid.

But as of this year, $4.3 billion has still not been allocated to city schools. The IDC budget does not go far enough in providing the money that city schools are owed, Mosher argues. The budget would provide $906.3 million in Foundation Aid during the 2017-18 school year.

“When he gives a few schools $100,000 it’s not ok,” she said. “This is a court ruling.”

Peralta said that “mainline Democrats engaged in a outrageous public relations stunt designed to spread misinformation and confuse the people who care most about this issue.”

“I have supported the Campaign for Fiscal Equity throughout my legislative career,” he added. “It is repugnant and offensive to the core for anyone to say I voted against CFE funding when no such vote occurred. We vote on a budget on April 1. I support $1.4 billion for Foundation Aid with a phase-in in this year’s budget. I have always fought for building more schools to add more seats and  eliminate decades-old classroom trailers that are not conducive to a real learning environment for our children. I pushed hard to obtain a record-setting amount of bond money to help our local schools.”

He also added that his advocacy has led to nine new schools with 4,693 and that four new schools with 2,871 are in the works.

The Senate Democrats’ budget, which did not make it to the floor, supports a “fully phased-in Foundation Aid Formula over the next three years” with a $2.1 billion increase for the 2017-18 school year. Mosher said about 50 people are expected to show up to the rally and many of them have students in neighborhood public schools or have children who will soon be attending kindergarten.

“He has a very blue constituency and we are going to watch every vote he makes and were going to make a big fuss and he will not get re-elected,” she said. “If he leads, he can take advantage [and say] ‘My constituents have spoken, I should lead.'”

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget would change the Foundation Aid formula, which would disproportionately affect black and Hispanic students, according to Jasmine Gripper, legislative director of Alliance for Quality Education (AQE).

“Fifty-eight percent of the Foundation Aid is owed to black and Latino students,” Gripper said in a statement after Cuomo released his budget. “Cuomo’s plan to eliminate Foundation Aid would permanently lock in place the systemic racism and economic injustice that defines New York’s school funding policies.”

Billy Eason, the executive director of AQE, said the IDC budget would “shaft high need students across the state.”

Mosher said this elimination worries Peralta’s constituents, many of whom are Latino. She said that there will be more protests when constituents do not agree with Peralta’s votes and the Jackson Heights resident has been working with a group called No IDC NY to organize her neighbors.

“This is not just Peralta’s district, this is the thing with the state and IDC and any Democrat who joins the IDC,” she said. “[They are]  taking power away from the Democrats to be able to pass this legislation. It affects all public schools and the fact [is] the assembly is two-thirds majority Democrat, [they] pass all this progressive legislation [and] it just sits there. It never gets on the floor.”