Education funding fight spurs walk to Albany

BRENTWOOD – A group of Long Islanders say they are shining a spotlight on an education funding fight by participating in a 150-mile walk from New York City to the state Capitol.

“All across Long Island there are school districts that are suffering, kids are not getting a quality education. And for decades the state has not been providing it for them,” says Lisa Tyson, of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

Organizers of a rally Saturday in Brentwood say October marks the 10-year anniversary of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, which directed more money into schools, especially the state’s poorest districts. Advocates argue that New York still owes nearly $4 billion to communities statewide […] Continue Reading…

New Report Reveals for 81% of High Need Schools CFE Funding is Off Track or Worse

(Long Island, NY) The Alliance for Quality Education, Education Law Center and the Public Policy and Education Fund released a new report evaluating the impact of the 2016 New York State budget on schools. The report only focuses on high need schools and examines whether schools are on track to receive their Campaign Fiscal Equity (CFE ) funding as a result of this year’s budget […] Continue Reading…

LIPC and AQE Join Parents, Students, Teachers in Call for Investment in Full-Day Pre-K

Dozens of parents, students from Pre-K to college ages, teachers, and advocates from across New York State traveled to ask that legislators support Governor Cuomo’s proposal to invest $25 million to expand full-day Pre-K programs, as well as to maintain the current $385 million level of funding for Universal Pre-K.

“Our state should do everything in its power to reduce crime in our communities, which is why it’s so important to support this investment in full day Pre-K,” saidChief Steven Krokoff, Albany Police Department. “Early childhood education puts our kids on a path to success and is proven to reduce instances of criminal activity in the future. How can we afford not to do this?”

“Quality early childhood education is a key tactic for crime prevention, which is one reason why it’s so important to invest in this Pre-K program,” said Sergeant Tracy Henry of the Albany County Sheriff’s Office. “By increasing the educational success of our kids, we’re increasing the likelihood that they’ll continue on a productive path throughout their lives.”

“Like most parents, my fiancé and I work full time jobs,” said Raheim Smith, a parent from Long Island. “Half day programs just don’t cut it and many private day care programs are still too expensive to be a viable alternative for most. Full day Pre-K is not a want for young families, it is a need both educationally and economically.”

“Full-day pre-kindergarten has a proven track record of success,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “It increases student outcomes in schools, results in more success in college and the job market, and reduces incarceration rates. Governor Cuomo’s proposal to start a pilot program in full-day pre-kindergarten should be adopted by the legislature.”

“No matter how beautiful and well-designed the building, it will not last if the foundation is not well established,” said Cliff Bird, Principal of Abram Lansing Elementary School in Cohoes, NY. “The same for education; the earlier we can start the foundation and make it solid and secure, the more successful our students.”

“We have so many parents here in the Bronx desperate for full-day Pre-K,” said Bonnie Mallonga, Executive Director, 1199 Future of America Learning Center. “Our parents understand the value of early childhood education, but they can’t afford private tuition. They can’t get their kids to a part-day program because of their schedules. They are thrilled to hear about the Governor’s new proposal!”

“Expanding our investment in quality early learning programs is one of the most effective ways we can ensure our children’s success while strengthening our economy and our communities,” said Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York. “Governor Cuomo’s proposal to expand Pre-K programs to full-day builds on Speaker Silver’s long term commitment to quality early learning and is a welcomed step toward ensuring all of our kids have the best chance at success that we can provide.”

Educate NY Now Campaign Kicks Off

Hundreds of Long Islanders rallied in Hauppauge yesterday, launching Educate NY Now, a new campaign with its sights set on Albany’s education policies.

Hundreds of Long Islanders rallied in Hauppauge yesterday, launching Educate NY Now, a new campaign with its sights set on Albany’s education policies. The kick off event was attended by parents, students and teachers, just a few weeks into the school year, are feeling the effects of the last three years of cuts to education funding.

“I am a single dad and my six year old son is a special needs student” said Willie Clark, a Bayshore parent. “In our old school district, my son was only able to enroll in a half a day kindergarten program. He needed more attention, so we were forced to pick up and move. No parent should have to move for their child to get the education that every child in every district should receive”

In the past three years, New York has lost over $2 billion in education funding, with more than $715 million of those cuts hitting Long Island schools. The result is fewer teachers, overcrowded classrooms and a lower quality of education for students. Educate NY Now is a statewide campaign which brings together parents, teachers, students and education advocates, to demand the state live up to its legal obligation to provide a sound basic education for students across the state. In the coming months, the campaign will be holding events throughout Long Island to focus attention on the effects of cuts to education.

“We realize that without bringing all of our voices together, we won’t be able to speak loud enough for Albany to hear us” said Danielle Asher, Lead Organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition and the Alliance for Quality Education. “When our schools lose funding, it doesn’t just mean we lose teachers. It means a student loses their art class. It means a parent has to put her child in an unregulated daycare program instead of kindergarten. We can’t go back in time-we only have one shot to give our students a good education, and when we miss it we all pay the cost.”

A large part of the education funding gap can be attributed to two recently passed tax caps. Last year, the Governor and the legislature passed a two percent tax cap which limits the levy for property tax to two percent annually, cutting deeply into local funding for schools. Another lesser known cap was passed in the 2011 budget, placing a limit on any increase to the state education budget tied to annual personal income increases. Last year, the increase was four percent or $800 million, with the increase in next years budget predicted to be even less.

“In the current year, New York’s school districts will be operating with $1.1 billion less in state aid than at the start of the 2008-09” said Stephen Allinger, New York State United Teachers’ Director of Legislation. “That translates to painful cuts in student courses and programs, and
some 35,000 fewer teachers and paraprofessionals statewide. Meanwhile, the property tax cap enacted in 2011 is undemocratically restraining local communities’ ability to invest in programs essential to continued student success. Clearly, New York has reached a critical juncture if the Empire State is to retain its place among the top tier of states’ education systems.”

According to the Long Island Education Coalition, 32 percent of classrooms in “low wealth” Long Island schools have more than 25 students, meaning nearly a third of these students are forced to learn in overcrowded conditions. This crowding can be directly linked to loss ofover 3,000 teaching and staff positions from Long Island schools over the last two years.

“This is only the beginning” said Amparo Sadler, a leader with the Long Island Progressive Coalition and local grandparent. “We’re going to keep coming out to let Albany know that our children are suffering from their bad policies. In a few months the state is going to start making budget
decisions, and parents as well as grandparents like myself are here to make sure that our schools get the funding they deserve.”

Educate NY Now Statement of Principles

The Statement of Principles for Educate NY Now Calls for New York’s elected leaders to:

-Prioritize successful student achievement, instead of undermining the quality of our schools.

-Ensure educational equity and that all students have access to a high quality education that opens up personal and economic opportunities for them and benefits the future of New York. Prepare all students for college or other post secondary education, careers, and life.

-Support public education as an engine for economic growth. Reverse the numerous cuts to the quality of education that our schools have been forced to implement.

-Fulfill the moral, economic and constitutional imperative to provide every student a “sound, basic education.”

The Statement of Principles identifies the following policies as undermining the quality of education:

-The State has significantly reduced its role in funding our schools and passed the burden on to local communities. Ten years ago the state covered almost 50% of the costs of educating students, now the State covers only 40%. State funding for schools is now below what it was 4 years ago and this does not even account for inflation.

-The combination of the newly imposed cap on state school aid and the cap on local funding through property taxes will force schools to continue cutting the quality of education year in and year out.
-New York State has largely abandoned its commitments under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity to provide statewide funding for a “sound, basic education” which is the constitutional obligation.

Calls for Equal Funding in High-Need Schools

By: Rashed Mian

Amparo Sadler, a grandmother from Central Islip, stood across the street from the Martin Luther King Jr., elementary school in Wyandanch on Wednesday and called on New York State legislators to equally allocate more than $200 million to more than two dozen high-need school districts, instead of forcing them to compete for the precious aid.

“Our children…should not have to compete against one another,” said Sadler, who also serves on the board of Alliance for Quality Education, a group that advocates for public education.

Members of AQE and Long Island Progressive Coalition joined together outside the elementary school to offer a list of recommendations to the state legislature concerning Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed executive budget that includes $805 million in school aid.

About 31 percent—$250 million—of the aid is tied to the performance grants. It also includes $113 million for average-need districts, $18 million to low-need districts and $421 million to high-need districts, according an analysis of Cuomo’s executive budget proposal by AQE.

Advocates said they are grateful for the additional aid from the state for high-need districts like Brentwood, Central Islip and Wyandanch, but they argued that having school districts compete for aid will leave some schools without proper funding.

“Wealthy districts throughout the state have received cuts as well, but they do not run as deep as the cuts that high needs districts are facing,” said Melanie Lawrence of LIPC.

Cuomo’s competitive grant program was established as an incentive to reward the school districts that improve performance.

The group also recommended that the sate redirect $53 million of competitive grant funds to expand pre-kindergarten education, which also falls in line with suggestions from the Board of Regents, they said.

Sadler said her family is looking to get her granddaughter into pre-K in September, but is concerned that she might not be selected by the lottery system that her district uses to place pre-K students.

If her granddaughter doesn’t get picked by the lottery, Sadler said they will have to look at other services, including private school.

“Albany listen to me clearly,” she said. “This is not a damn game show, education is a civil right—it is the law.”