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.”