Education activists angry over funding

Education activists are in an uproar over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s support for charter schools vs. public schools.
Courtesy of Governor’s office
By Naeisha Rose

At the Academy of Finance and Enterprise in Long Island City,Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a $25.8 billion education bill last week that left many public school education advocates in an uproar.

The state budget will provide $1.1 billion in school aid for charter schools in the 2018-2019 school year, while public schools will receive only $700 million through the Foundation Aid, which is funding programs and facilities for underprivileged kids and schools in need.

Many education advocates believe public schools should have received over $1 billion in funding that was guaranteed to them and it’s being siphoned off to charter schools.

The Foundation Aid and Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which fights to get quality education for urban schools, was created after a lawsuit in 1993, filed by former City Councilman Robert Jackson (D-NY), brought to light the many ways that New York State schools were failing children, according to the Alliance for Quality Education Executive Director Billy Easton.

“He sued the state based on the Constitution that gave the students a right to a sound basic education,” Easton said. “The courts found that the state was violating the students’ right to education and that it needed to make sure that schools had a lot more funding.”

It was settled in 2007 when Gov. Eliot Spitzer was in office and the Legislature “agreed to increase funding statewide for students in high-need districts by $5.5 billion in classroom operating aid and the core foundation aid,” Easton said.

For two years payments were made and then they were frozen. These schools are still owed $ 4 billion in aid, according to Easton.

The classrooms in these schools were overcrowded, there was a lack of access to curriculum for students, and middle-schoolers and high-schoolers weren’t receiving the best quality education and experiences, which is required under the state Constitution, according to Easton.

One of the parent advocates was Dionne McNeil, who marched from New York City to Albany on March 4 in protest because of the renewed smaller amounts in funding then what they were supposed to receive from the lawsuit.

“That is the money that he knows about that we are trying to get,” McNeil said. “He just released $700 million and that is not enough for the whole state public school system. It was supposed to be $1.9 billion.”

McNeil is disappointed at the state of the high school one of her sons attends. She believes the lack of funding is the reason why.

At August Martin High School in South Jamaica, “they had business and communications, law, there was a medical academy, and we have a courtroom sitting idle not being used. We have a state of the art media center that was donated. That is a $1 million TV studio basically not being used to its full capacity,” because of the lack and of money and teachers, McNeil said.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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