After using the Trump election to position himself as the “Progressive Champion that New Yorkers needed,” presidential hopeful Governor Andrew Cuomo released a late evening, $162.2 billion budget proposal that ignores the needs of New York students, especially low income students of color and purposely tries to erase the New York State Foundation Aid formula.
The blatantly political move undermines years of activism by working class families across the state, and once again prioritizes the whims of special interests over the needs of ordinary New Yorkers. Cuomo’s decision to renege on a promise made to families and students is the last thing the state needs, especially with the rise of Trump and unqualified administrator, Betsy DeVos, primed to run the United States Department of Education.
Let’s take a step back; you probably have no idea what New York State’s “Foundation Aid for Education” is. Allow me to give you a little history lesson. Ten years ago, New York’s highest court ruled in favor of a lawsuit led by parents that claimed the state was “failing to provide students with a ‘sound, basic’ education that is their right under the State’s Constitution.” In order to comply with the lawsuit, the state enacted the Foundation Aid formula, committing to increase basic operating aid by $5.5 billion over a 4 year phase-in. New York’s students, to this day, are still owed $4.3 billion.
Although the ruling happened in 2006, New York state agreed to adopt the foundation aid formula in 2007, since then parents and teachers have organized every year (Including two 150 mile marches to Albany) to get the formula fully funded. After years of counterproductive trickle down economics, the great recession led the state to renege on the phase-in after only two years, and the state budgets since then have failed to fill the wide gap in school funding. Another generation of students had to go through an underfunded and under resourced system; held together through the efforts of hardworking and dedicated teachers, administrators and parents. All of this took place while the goal post for proper funding was set, and then pushed back because the Governor and Senate Republicans were unwilling to make the super wealthy pay their fair share
Finally, after years of excuses and funny math, Governor Cuomo had a chance to set our children in the right direction with Foundation Aid. Instead, he proposed a $428 million increase that would lock in the inadequate funding levels in perpetuity, level out the payment and eliminate the formula, leaving a structure that allows school funding to be set through the problematic power dynamics at the state level. Confused? It’s the equivalent of your Uncle Ricky borrowing $100 and promising to pay it back as soon as he gets his refund check. But here’s the gag: when the day arrives he covers your order of sticky wings at Dallas BBQ’s during the family dinner and says his debt is paid. So not only is he trying to give you back less than you’re owed, he expects you to give him credit for doing it.
Cuomo’s plan continues to ignore the $10,000 spending gap per pupil between rich and poor schools in New York, a number that will continue to rise under his proposal. And, it ignores the recommendations of experts. The New York State Board of Regents recommended a $2.1 billion increase and the Alliance for Quality Education proposed a $2.88 billion increase. His plan only adds $428 million and locks it in for as long as Donald Trump is orange. Black and brown people are being targeted - we don’t need weak funding and half hearted concessions, the only appropriate response is a full throated plan to support our children.
The cost of a quality education for our school children does not remain static, and this plan does not acknowledge the needs of children across the state, nor does it respect what is truly at stake here.
As a man who represents the very worst of “American values” tries his best to run this country into the ground, it is imperative that we fight back. Whether Governor Cuomo knows it or not, the best hope for working class families, people of color, those in the LGBTQ community and families across the state is not sitting in the New York State Senate, and they’re definitely not in the Governor’s office. New York’s best bet is somewhere in Utica, reading her first book. He’s in East New York signing up for an after-school program. She’s in Rochester getting help with her homework, and in the Bronx practicing his favorite equations. The future of this state - and as dramatic as it sounds, our country - is the child whose education is at risk of being short changed.
More than likely, Governor Cuomo won’t move on his own. That’s not his style. But we can push him to action. Sign this petition to demand NY Governor Cuomo puts an end to systemic racism in school funding.