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March 26, 2012

New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus and Grassroots Community Organizations Urge More Funds for Education

During budget debates in Albany in February, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) presented a letter to the Governor and the Legislature asserting that the "Executive budget proposal appears to conflict with the New York Court of Appeals' in the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity rulings."

David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center (ELC), delivered the CFE letter. At the request of the CFE Board of Directors, ELC has recently undertaken the CFE core mission of advancing the legal rights of New York schoolchildren to a sound basic and quality education under state and federal law.

"The 2007 Foundation Aid program was enacted to provide all New York students with the funds necessary for a sound basic education, as defined by the landmark CFE rulings," said Mr. Sciarra. "We're asking the Legislature to revise the Executive's budget by allocating increased funds to the Foundation Aid program to put the State back on track towards constitutional compliance."

At the same press conference at the New York State Legislative Office Building, grassroots community organizations and over two dozen members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus spoke. They expressed opposition to the Executive budget's competitive grants proposal. Legislators emphasized the need for the State to honor its commitment to the CFE remedy; prioritize academic achievement, excellence and success; and direct more funding to the state's high needs schools.

"Five years ago parents from across the state, especially in Black and Latino neighborhoods, were hopeful that, finally, our children would receive the funding through CFE that would ensure our children a quality education," said Zakiyah Ansari, Alliance for Quality Education Advocacy Director. "Fast forward to 2012, and the promise to our kids has not been fulfilled. Let's get back on track to fully funding CFE."

"With increasing class sizes, dismal graduation rates for Black and Latino students, and dwindling resources in our classrooms, funding our children's right to a quality education continues to take a back seat in the state budget. We cannot continue to sit by while the opportunity to compete in tomorrow's global economy slips through our children's fingers," said New York City Councilmember Robert Jackson, who is Chair of the Education Committee and was an original CFE plaintiff. "We need to restart the State's CFE commitment."

Participants highlighted the need for additional school funding restorations above the $805 million proposed in the Executive budget in order to address the $2.7 billion in state school aid cuts that are damaging New York's schools, especially high needs schools serving large numbers of students of color.

In its CFE ruling, the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, found that students were being denied their constitutional right to a "sound basic education." In 2007, the Governor and the Legislature enacted school funding reforms as a statewide remedy for the CFE decision and committed to increase classroom aid, also known as Foundation Aid, by $5.5 billion over four years, and to prioritize high needs schools and districts.

However, since the historic 2007 legislation, the State has reversed its commitments. After two years of increasing investments, Foundation Aid was frozen in the third year and cut by $2.7 billion in the fourth and fifth years. Children in the highest needs schools experienced the most severe losses of quality programs and teachers.

Education Justice Press Contact:
Molly A. Hunter, Esq.
Director, Education Justice
email: mhunter@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x19

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