By Naeisha Rose
The Alliance for Quality Education, an educational advocacy group, accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of underfunding public schools in majority black and Latino communities and owing them $2.6 billion in aid.
AQE’s report, “Educational Racism: Andrew Cuomo’s Record of Underfunding Public Schools in Black & Latino Communities,” released Sept. 11, focuses on both high need areas that happened to mostly be in black and Latino school districts, as well as the state’s alleged failure to equitably fund them in 25 different state school districts.
“When Gov. Cuomo says that we’re spending too much on our schools, he is choosing to ignore eight out of every 10 Black and Latino students in our state. For decades, Black and Latino families and students have been telling stories of underfunding and inequity (and) Andrew Cuomo ignores us,” AQE Advocacy Director Zakiyah Ansari said.
In the New York City school district, 66 percent of students are black and Latino, 75 percent of them are economically disadvantaged and their institutions are owed $11,239,095, according to the AQE’s demographic figures for the 2017-18 school year.
In Queens, there are 309,302 students in school from pre-school to 12th grade. Of those, 55,101 — or 17.8 percent — are black students and 116,896 students — or 37.8 percent — are Latino students, according to a Demographic Snapshot from the city’s Education Department.
The funds the students are owed are from the Foundation Aid, according to AQE.
Foundation Aid, enacted into law in 2007, uses a formula to drive more funding to school districts where students are in poverty, have disabilities and a substantial amount of English Language Learners. It was created in response to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit that accused the state of not having enough quality schools, according to AQE.
In 2006, the Court of Appeals — New York’s highest court — ruled that the state was violating its own Constitution by chronically underfunding the neediest students, according to the AQE report.
The state’s Education Department and the Board of Regents said New York owed the school districts $4.2 billion in Foundation Aid, but AQE stated that currently 62 percent of these 25 school districts with majority black and Latino students are owed $2.6 billion.
Cuomo’s spokesman Tyrone Stevens fired back, implying that the “conveniently timed political report,” was a smear campaign against the governor’s re-election bid in the Sept. 13 primary.
“In the world of fact, the Court of Appeals definitively ruled last year that the CFE decision imposes no continuing obligation on the state and Foundation Aid is not a “constitutionally required” level of funding. Nevertheless, Gov. Cuomo increased Foundation Aid in this year’s budget and added $1 billion in education aid overall – with 72 percent going to high need school districts,” said Stevens.
Cuomo faced off against actress and activist Cynthia Nixon for the Democratic ticket in the primary.
New York has increased education funding by 36 percent since 2012, and currently spends more on education than any other state, according to Stevens.
“In this year’s budget the governor continued the fight against educational inequity, putting in place greater transparency of school spending at the local level, so we can do more to close funding gaps between schools in wealthy and low-income areas. These are the facts. We will leave the falsehoods and distractions to others,” said Stevens.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose