Expert: Segregation, housing patterns widened income gap between school districts

 

Newsday senior education reporter John Hildebrand takes a look at New York State’s funding of public schools and how the wealthiest districts outspend the poorest by more than $6,000 per student. (Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman, Thomas A. Ferrara, Chris Ware)

 

Economic divisions between Long Island’s rich and poor school districts go back a long way.

Much of the financial inequity can be traced to the suburban housing segregation of the 1950s, when minority homebuyers found themselves restricted to a handful of school districts, according to Lisa Tyson, president of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, a regional advocacy group. Tyson reminded educators attending a recent conference in Seaford that the housing patterns tended to widen the income gap between districts, creating disparities that continue today.

“The unequal distribution of wealth between school districts on Long Island is a product of our segregated past — and present,” Tyson declared in a statement released at the conference.

New York State in recent years has moved to reduce the economic gap, but with mixed results. Currently, more than two-thirds of state funding is distributed through a so-called “foundation” formula, launched in 2007 with the intent of helping districts with large numbers of impoverished students.

Foundation aid was developed largely in response to a landmark ruling by the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest bench. The decision held that Albany was not doing enough to provide New York City schoolchildren with a “sound, basic” education required by the state constitution.

In its initial design, the “foundation” approach seemed simple and straightforward.

The idea was that the state would first look at spending in districts where a respectable number of students passed state tests, to determine how much money was required for success. Then, the state would push the extra cash toward New York City and other needy school districts, based largely on the number of students in those systems who lived in poverty, spoke limited English or faced other obstacles to learning.

However, the drive for expanded funding soon stalled in the face of the 2008 stock market crash and the ensuing recession.

Consequently, frustrations have been building in districts, such as Hempstead, that still feel the historic effect of segregation, and also in systems such as William Floyd, where a lack of taxable commercial property is a major problem.

“Look, we’re realistic, they can’t fund the full formula,” said Robert Vecchio, who has served as president of William Floyd’s school board since 2006. “But something needs to be done, because the inequities continue to grow between high-needs and low-needs districts.”

One idea advanced by Vecchio and many colleagues is that Albany take steps to relieve financial strains on districts by reducing state “mandates” for student services in special education and other areas that cost substantial money.

Christian Diaz, 17, a senior at Hempstead High School, said he is reminded of the financial struggles faced by his district whenever he tries to spend time on a classroom computer to further his long-term goal of a career in digital art.

“We may have one computer in a class — most don’t work,” Diaz said.

In addition to economic limitations, Albany politics also has played a role in limiting the drive for more equity in schools. Since foundation aid was introduced, the tendency among lawmakers has been to ensure that their constituencies get a share of the money, regardless of financial need.

In the state capital, legal “floors” were quickly written into the formula language to provide districts with at least as much state funding as they had received in past years, even if their enrollments were falling. In addition, legal “ceilings” were installed to prevent any drastic transfers of money from the richest district to the poorest.

The result: a statewide aid package totaling more than $27 billion that has risen by more than $900 million annually in recent years but still does not meet the basic requirements of dozens of districts across New York. That, at least, is the verdict of finance experts who have studied the issue in-depth, as well as school officials, parents and students directly affected.

A government publication, “State Aid to Schools: A Primer,” issued in August by the state Education Department, puts the situation this way: “Despite New York’s equalizing state aid system, there remain tremendous disparities between New York State school districts in fiscal resources available to support education.”

The Education Trust-New York, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, also has addressed the issue. In 2018, the Manhattan-based agency declared in a news release that “New York State has one of the most inequitable school funding systems in the nation.” The agency cited a study showing that New York ranked third from the bottom among states in terms of money spent on districts serving the most low-income students, as compared with the least low-income students.

Locally, many communities still harbor painful memories of what happened in the aftermath of the Great Recession, when Albany moved to close its own budget deficit by imposing aid cuts on local districts.

Such was the case in William Floyd, a system of about 8,900 students in southern Brookhaven Town. The district ranks sixth from the bottom on Long Island in terms of taxable wealth, which is just over half the state average.

William Floyd, according to administrators, lost about $20 million in state aid between 2009 and 2011. This forced the district to lay off teachers and other staff, raise class sizes, stagger busing schedules and cancel enrichment programs, including band and orchestra training in the system’s six elementary schools.

More recently, William Floyd, like many districts, has begun restoring staff and programs as state funding has rebounded. Bands and orchestras have resumed rehearsals in elementary schools, and George Ober, the district’s music coordinator, said the system has won national commendations for its programming three years in a row.

Still, Ober said, the district’s elementary music staffing remains a bit smaller than it had been. There is less time for advanced training of individual students, and budgeting is tight for replacement of musical instruments.

“The tuba’s still in circulation 40 years later,” Ober quipped.

Longtime resident Vincent Panicola, 56, recalled disruptions in family routines that occurred during the budget cut years, when bus schedules were shifted in order to save money. One result, Panicola said, was that his three young sons, like many other students, could no longer catch their morning buses at the same time, but rather had to leave home on staggered schedules, often in the dark.

“We lost a lot of things for the kids, and not just fluff, but a lot of basic things, serious programs, like busing,” said Panicola, who at the time served on the district’s budget advisory committee.

“If you’re a district like Jericho, with a great tax base, then your kids are able to have a full program. You’re not dependent on state aid to make up the difference. That’s what makes it unfair.”

BY THE NUMBERS

School spending statewide totals more than $70 billion for 2019-20. Spending in the Nassau-Suffolk region is $13.1 billion, with about 68% coming from localities, 25% from the state, and the rest from the federal government.

How funding breaks down statewide:

55%: property taxes and other local sources

41%: state aid and grants

4%: federal government sources

SOURCE: State Education Department; Newsday analysis

Reprinted from Newsday.com. Read the article here.

Groups Urge NY Lawmakers to Stand Firm on Bail Reform

January 8, 2020 4:30PM EST

Governor Cuomo, Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie,

January 1st was a historic day that ushered in pretrial reforms that will make New York fairer and more just. These reforms are a huge step forward towards eliminating the race- and wealth-based detention that has plagued New York for decades. The new laws will dramatically expand pretrial liberty and reduce jail populations and taxpayer spending on jails across the state.

These reforms are the result of years of work by directly impacted people, advocates, faith leaders, and lawmakers to address the rampant injustices of New York’s pretrial system. Prior to these reforms, tens of thousands of people across the state languished in jail each year simply because they were too poor to afford bail and forced to accept plea deals without ever seeing the evidence in their cases. People routinely lost their homes, jobs, and custody of their children because of the state’s broken and racist pretrial laws. The laws passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor will go a long way towards righting these wrongs.

Less than a week after these historic reforms were implemented, some regressive district attorneys and legislators are calling to reverse your great work and return to a pretrial system that will continue to  prey on Black, Brown, and low-income communities. By referring to the new bail reforms as a “get-out-of-jail-free card,” these fear-mongers are trying to expand a two-tiered system of justice in which the wealthy pay bail and go home and poor people languish in jail.

Others are clamoring for the introduction of dangerousness to our bail statute, an approach that would exacerbate racial disparities and that New York has rightfully rejected for half a century. This small but vocal group is stoking fear by spreading misinformation about a small number of cases to the media rather than celebrating the fact that thousands of people are reuniting with their families, returning to work, and making their communities stronger.

Pretrial reform is about fighting for a fairer, more just New York. Make no mistake – retreating from bail reform less than a week after it goes into effect because of predictable fearmongering will be a retreat from New York’s position as a leader in criminal justice reform and will embolden opponents who prefer the status quo. Each of you fought hard to secure these important reforms, and tens of thousands of New Yorkers are and will continue benefiting from them. We are urging you to stand firm and stop any attempts to roll back New York’s historic pretrial reforms.

Sincerely,

Action Together Rochester
Alliance for Quality Education
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Brooklyn Community Bail Fund
Brooklyn Defender Services
Broome Tioga Green Party
Center For Community Alternatives
Citizen Action New York
Civil Rights Corps
College & Community Fellowship
Color Of Change
Correctional Association of New York
Drug Policy Alliance
Empire State Indivisible
End New Jim Crow Action Network (ENJAN)
Enough Is Enough
Federal Defenders of New York
First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn

FWD.us
Harm Reduction Coalition
Human Rights Watch
Immigrant Defense Project
Innocence Project
Irvington Activists
John Brown Lives!
JustLeadershipUSA
Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS
LatinoJustice PRLDEF
Legal Aid Society
Long Island Progressive Coalition
Make the Road New York
New Hour for Women & Children LI
New York Civil Liberties Union
New York Communities for Change
New York County Defender Services
New York State Defenders Association, Inc.
New York Working Families
Returning Citizens Society
Rikers Debate Project

Rise Up Kingston
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
ROCitizen
Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ NYC)
Southern Tier AIDS Program
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
SURJ ROC
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
The Bronx Defenders
The Bronx Freedom Fund
The Osborne Association
Truth Pharm
Ulster People for Justice & Democracy
Uri L’Tzedek
VOCAL
WESPAC Foundation
Westchester Children’s Association
Westchester Coalition for Police Reform
Westchester for Change
Westchester MLK Institute for Nonviolence Worth Rises
Youth Represent

Reprinted from Newsday.com. Read the article here.

Activists rally to denounce Freeport arrest caught on video, call for probe of police

 

Shouting slogans such as “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” the more than 100 activists and local residents gathered on the steps of the Refuge Apostolic Church. (Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware)

 

Community and grassroots activists denounced the controversial arrest of a local resident during a rally in Freeport on Friday, calling for state authorities to step in and investigate the village’s police department.

They also said they want the officers who arrested Akbar Rogers, 44, of Freeport to be placed on administrative leave without pay, and have the footage from their body cameras released.

Shouting slogans like “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” the more than 100 activists and local residents gathered on the steps of the Refuge Apostolic Church.

Rogers “experienced police brutality by some out-of-control rogue police officers,” said the Rev. Arthur Mackey Jr., of Mount Sinai Baptist Church Cathedral in Roosevelt.

Officers had come to arrest Rogers on a warrant for a traffic charge, as well as a separate incident in which he allegedly pushed a woman to the ground twice, officials have said.

The arrest of Rogers on Tuesday was captured by a neighbor on a video that has since gone viral. The video showed seven officers involved, with at least two punching the man while he was on the ground yelling for help. Another officer appeared to kick Rogers.

Mackey said the officers did not need to use violence against Rogers.

Race also has played a part in the outrage, as all the officers appear to be white, and Rogers is black.

“They could have just put the handcuffs on him and put him in prison and let him have his day in court. But they beat him and they beat him brutally. That could be our son, that could be our daughter, that could be our mother, that could be our father. We must stand up against the racism, the classism and the sexism,” Mackey said.

Freeport police say they followed proper procedures, though the Nassau County district attorney’s office is investigating. A lawyer representing the police officers said Friday that his clients had to exert “reasonable force” because Rogers was resisting arrest.

Attorney William Petrillo of Garden City said Rogers was out of control and that police stopped the use of force once he was handcuffed.

Reprinted from Newsday.com. Read the article here.

 

Long Island Progressive Coalition receives Long Island Community Foundation Grant

 

 

19 nonprofits to share $365,000 in grants


The Long Island Community Foundation is awarding $365,000 to 19 nonprofits in its first round of charitable giving for 2019. The Melville-based community chest, which doled out $1.5 million to more than 60 nonprofits last year in its competitive grants program, is again supporting a wide range of projects and organizations serving the Long Island community.

Three organizations received the top prize of $25,000: The Trust for Public Land, whose award will be used for its Long Island Empire State Trail Extension Project Phase II feasibility study and implementation plan; the Health & Welfare Council of Long Island, who will encourage pediatric service providers to promote breastfeeding and supplemental nutrition programs; and ECNY Foundation, which is creating a comprehensive digital roadmap to connect people to training and careers with a shortage of skilled workers.

Long Island Progressive Coalition was one of nine organizations to receive an award of $20,000. It will use it to promote worker cooperatives on Long Island. Vision Long Island will apply its $20,000 grant toward advocacy and coalition-building to support transit-oriented development. Grassroots Environmental Education’s grant will help it work with municipalities to prohibit the sale and use of single-use plastics, while the Long Island Pine Barrens Society will put its award toward its multi-year campaign to protect water quality.

Community Action Southold Town will finance a home visiting program to prepare young children from low-income families on the East End for school, and Project Morry will apply its award to a leadership development and college preparation program targeting students from the North Amityville and Copiague school districts. Grants of $20,000 will also help Mercy Haven provide food stamps and other benefits to low-income households, support Adelphi University Institute for Nonprofit Leadership’s leadership development program for nonprofit professionals and community leaders of color, and help bankroll the Long Beach Latino Civic Association’s job readiness program for Latino youth.

Seven organizations received $15,000 apiece, including the Great Neck Center For The Performing & Visual Arts, whose award will support the showing and discussion of social action documentaries. The Long Island Arts Alliance’s award will allow it to maintain and distribute the Long Island Arts Map, while All Our Energy will continue a campaign to eliminate single-use plastic items in Nassau County. Friends of Hempstead Plains at Nassau Community College will use its award to restore the habitat of the 26-acre Hempstead Plains Purcell Preserve, while the Parrish Art Museum will provide arts education to economically and culturally diverse East End students. Community Housing Innovations’ educational programs for homeless adults at a Riverhead men’s shelter will also get a boost, as will the LGBT Network’s efforts to bring LGBT youth and young adults into inclusive workplaces.

LICF has three grant cycles each year. The second cycle’s recipients will be announced in late July. The application deadline for that round has passed, but the deadline for submissions for the third round is August 12.

 April 17, 2019. republished for the Long Island Business News

NY vs Godzilla: Taking on Big Money

 

In The Creative Resistance’s new video, “NY vs Godzilla: Taking on Big Money,” watch Edie Falco explain how lobbyist money is blocking passage of progressive issues in New York State and how passing a small-donor matching system can help us fight back. We can get Big Money out of New York politics!

Tell your State Senator and Assembly Member that you want small donor matching, before April 1st. We can get big money out of politics. Visit: https://fairelectionsny.org/act

Credits:

Directed and Produced By: Eric Rockey

Produced By: Adam Baran, Eric Rockey, Liz Manne and Tracie Holder

Written By: Jacques Servin, Adam Baran and Eric Rockey

Animation By: Anthony Kraus

Narration By: Edie Falco

Watch on the Creative Resistance YouTube Page:  Watch Video Online Here

Environmentalists Cheer CCPA, Blast ‘Federal Inactivity’

 

By GREGORY ZELLER

A statewide coalition rallying for “climate justice” delivered high praise Friday for some of the sharpest environmental regulations ever considered by Albany.

With the New York State Senate hosting its third legislative hearing in four days on a proposed slate of new and pointed environmental laws (following sit-downs in Albany and New York City), members of NY Renews – a coalition of more than 160 organizations championing environmental policy “grounded in equity and justice for communities and working people” – testified Feb. 15 at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola.

Led by State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Rockville Centre), chairman of the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee, the hearing was an opportunity for legislators to hear from regional stakeholders on Senate Bill S2992, the Climate and Community Protection Act, which sets aggressive mandates that would create a 100 percent renewable-energy New York State in just 30 years.

And NY Renews did not disappoint, with multiple members – representing both Long Island-based and statewide organizations – testifying their full-throated support of the CCPA, along with a few stinging rebukes of current federal policies on the environment and the working class.

Climate-change deniers need not apply, noted biologist Cathy McConnell, a member of the Long Island Progressive Coalition who testified that “climate change threatens our way of life” on the Island, including “our homes, our beaches, our communities and our future.”

“But … we will stand up to protect our homes, our families and our communities,” McConnell said. “We must defend our way of life, and that means supporting the CCPA.”

Guy Jacob, conservation chairman of the Nassau Hiking and Outdoor Club, said it was up to individual states to take the mantle on environmental issues “in the face of federal inaction.”

“Throughout our union’s history … individual states have led and changed the course of American history,” Jacob testified before the State Senate panel. “Once again, New York State is at the crossroads of historical significance.”

Crowd favorite: Members of the NY Renews Coalition and other environmental activists gathered in Mineola Feb. 15 to support Albany’s proposed Climate and Community Protection Act.

Making history is certainly on the minds of Kaminsky, who introduced Senate Bill S2992, and his multitude of co-sponsors – a partisan assemblage of statewide Democrats with a few third-party designations thrown in and nary a Republican in sight. A companion bill sponsored by NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Port Jefferson) is working its way to the State Assembly floor, similarly supported along party lines.

Referencing the Paris Agreement – the international climate-change accord agreed to in 2015 by 195 countries and later dismissed by President Donald Trump, who summarily withdrew the United States – and noting “the severity of current climate change,” the CCPA warns that “the threat of additional and more severe change will be affected by the actions undertaken by New York and other jurisdictions to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.”

To that end, it lays out a laundry list of emission-reduction, clean-generation directives spanning multiple industries and, where necessary and possible, targeting disadvantaged communities first – a cross-cultural smorgasbord of renewable-energy mandates meant to promote good-paying jobs and boost the production economy while saving the world.

The proposed law also creates a “New York State Climate Change Council” – including members appointed by the governor, the Senate and the Assembly, as well as at-large professional members – to see the new mandates through to fruition.

The ultimate goal: a statewide reduction of 100 percent (from 1990 levels) of greenhouse-gas emissions from anthropogenic sources by the year 2050, with at least a 50 percent reduction achieved by 2030.

It’s an ambitious agenda – but according to NY Renews member Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition, the Empire State has the wherewithal “to reorient ourselves and to tackle the climate crisis with the urgency it demands.”

“In New York State, we have a solution … that will serve as a model to other states,” Madden told state legislators Friday. “This is a transformative bill that changes the logic of our economic and governance systems, the only appropriate response to the threats posed by climate change and the structural forces that have caused it.”

Republished from Innovateli.com.  Read the article online by clicking this link

LI schools jockey for state aid in annual fight for a larger share

 

By John Hildebrand john.hildebrand@newsday.com

Westbury and Brentwood school leaders aired a long list of troubles on Wednesday — everything from overcrowded classes to losses of lunch time — as part of a statewide campaign aimed at generating more state funding for districts that serve large numbers of low-income families.

At Westbury Middle School, which has chronic problems with overcrowding, a visiting group of state lawmakers and others saw classrooms set up in a basement, throngs of students jamming hallways and teachers working in cubicles lining both sides of a narrow passage. Visitors also heard from students themselves.

“I think the classrooms should be smaller — not in size, but in numbers of students,” said Katherine Hendricks, 13, an eighth-grader. “There’s a math class of, like, 31 students, and it’s hard for the teacher to meet individual needs.”

Reprinted from Newsday.com.  Read the article online here

Long Island Needs Your Voice in Albany for Fair Elections

 

On February 12, New Yorkers will descend upon Albany to make sure the State Legislature focuses on fixing our broken campaign finance system with publicly financed elections. Dozens from Long Island are already planning to join and so should you!

Together we will fight for a 6-1 matching system that takes the power away from corporations and big donors and gives it back to constituents and the community.

We Need YOUR Voice in Albany!  Join Long Island Progressive Coalition in Albany on February 12 for our first lobby day of the year.

We’re asking our legislators to go all in for fair elections.

We’re arranging a free bus from Long Island leaving from Suffolk and Nassau County and will have free lunch for all.

New leadership in the State Legislature has pledged to support fair elections. We can make sure the State Legislature keeps up the good work.

For More information, please contact Dan Fingas at 516-541-1006×17 or dfingas@lipc.org