Advocates says NY schools tour shows funding lack
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Increased class sizes and staff cuts despite higher enrollments in 14 school districts across the state show New York is failing to adequately fund public education, advocates and lawmakers said Monday.
The Alliance for Quality Education and Campaign for Fiscal Equity said their representatives toured 14 school districts and found the state is failing to provide the "sound, basic education" required by a 2006 court ruling in a lawsuit over funding New York City's schools.
The organizations said the fact-finding tour showed "resource deficiencies," citing class sizes climbing to up to 30 students and some schools that have cut staff by as much as 20 percent despite increased enrollment.
Billy Easton, executive director of the alliance, said the districts visited represent the diversity of average- and high-need districts in the state.
"The evidence is very clear, Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo and the legislature are failing to meet their constitutional obligations to provide or every student's education," Easton said.
The report also found that some districts have cut Pre-K to half-days or eliminated the program altogether. The ratio between students and guidance counselors exceeded 350 students to one counselor and found some neighboring districts were sharing counselors, school psychologists and social workers.
Advocates visited schools in the Capital Region, Mohawk, Hudson Valley, Genesee Valley, Yonkers, Suffolk County and the Southern Tier. The districts represent rural average and high-need districts, small city average and high-need districts and one large city school district, they said.
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, chair of her chamber's education committee, said to a packed room of lawmakers and advocates that the Assembly is working carefully to ensure the funding formula for school districts is fair and goes to the neediest school districts.
As the Senate and Assembly ready their education budgets, the AQE and CFE are preparing to file a lawsuit over school funding if the state does not live up to its 2006 court obligation.
This year, Cuomo has proposed a 3.8 percent spending increase in school aid, or $807 million, with $608 million of that for school districts as formula-based school aid. Cuomo's budget proposal says high-need school districts will receive more than 70 percent of the 2014-2015 increases.
"The Governor's priority is providing education funding based on the number of students it helps, not growing the education bureaucracy to serve the demands of the special interests," Cuomo's office said. Cuomo's proposed budget increases state education aid for the third straight year, his office added.
Lawmakers have been reviewing Cuomo's $137.2 billion budget proposal. Discussions will begin next month.
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