THE BLOG
01/28/2016 06:46 am ET Updated Jan 28, 2017

New York Alliance Condemns Cuomo Mis-Education Budget

The New York State Alliance for Quality Education( AQE) condemns Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed education budget as "woefully inadequate." Cuomo requested an additional $961 million for New York schools. The Board of Regents, the governing body for education in New York, requested a $2.4 billion budget increase. AQE argues that a $2.9 billion increase in school aid is needed to ensure every student's constitutional right to "a sound basic education."

AQE claims that the Cuomo proposal violates court decries in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) case and a 2007 legislature agreement requiring that New York State provide additional funds to poorer school districts. Cuomo proposes allocating only $266 million to satisfy CFE funding mandates, but AQE argues that a $1.1 billion increase is needed to rectify the chronic underfunding of high need schools. According to AQE figures the "current spending gap between rich and poor schools is $8,733 per pupil."

In the past Cuomo has demanded action to turn around low performing schools and school districts. AQE finds the budget fails to satisfy Cuomo's own priorities. The proposed "budget includes $100 million for turning schools labeled as 'struggling' and 'persistently struggling schools' into community schools, but some schools and districts will receive as little as $17,000, hardly enough to make a difference. AQE charges that based on last year's allocations, "the state should be providing least $535 million for 144 schools."

There are toxic proposals buried in the Cuomo budget request. The Governor wants to allocate $150 million to cover an Education Tax Credit which is a subterfuge voucher plan that would drain money and children from the public school system. The tax credit would circumvent separation of church and state laws by allowing corporations and individuals to receive a tax credit equal to 75% of their contributions to private and religious schools. In addition, instead of tuition, private and religious schools could mandate tax deductible "donations." The Cuomo budget includes making new funding for pre-K as part of a competitive grants that will leave some districts underfunded or unfunded. Because inadequate pre-K funding is opposed by the Board of Regents, Cuomo wants to create a new level of political bureaucracy more responsive to his agenda.

Cuomo's proposals are also highly favorable to Charter School networks, another drain on public money for public schools. He wants to allocate additional per pupil aid to charter schools, increase the amount of funding New York City must transfer to charter schools by $12.4 million, and make permanent the requirement that privately operated charter schools receive rent free use of public facilities. This comes at the same time that the State University of New York and the federal Office of Civil Rights are investigating the Success Academy Charter School Network fin New York City for discriminatory discipline practices aimed at Black and Latino children and students with disabilities.

In addition, to its budget proposals, AQE requests that the state's receivership law should be repealed. It does not provide parents an adequate voice in the process and the provision that allows for the "firing of up to 50% of teachers" is "highly disruptive and counterproductive." AQE is also demanding that the state eliminate the 2% spending cap on school districts that forcing them to cut back on services to children.

The New York State Board of Regents is currently in the process of being reorganized. The NYS Allies for Public Education endorsed Dr. Betty Rosa for Chancellor of the Board of Regents and Regent Beverly Ouderkirk for Vice Chancellor because of their long records fighting for public education. In addition I am being considered for a soon-to-be vacant seat on the Board. I endorse the Alliance for Quality Education positions and if selected will join Rosa and Ouderkirk in challenging Cuomo's anti-public school agenda.

To support my nomination to the New York State Board of Regents contact Steven McCutcheon, the State Assembly Program and Counsel Staff at mccutcheons@assembly.state.ny.us.