February 1, 2012
In 2007, New York State made a commitment to finally close the funding gap between rich and poor school districts and to give all students access to the quality education that is their right under the New York State Constitution. This was done as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. But, this promise of educational opportunity for all remains far from fulfilled. For two years, as a result of the 2007 school funding reform, the state kept its obligation to our students and over $2 billion in new classroom aid was invested in classroom improvements. Over the past two years the state has cut $2.7 billion from our schools and these cuts have widened the educational opportunity gap between wealthy and poor districts. These cuts have come directly out of the classroom, hurting students' educational opportunity by raising class sizes, eliminating over 30,000 positions of teachers and other educators, cutting arts, music, sports, advance placement and career and technical courses, tutoring programs and in some cases reducing kindergarten from full-day to halfday. The 2012-13 Executive budget proposes $805 million more in school funding than was contained in last years' budget. But only $555 million are allocated to restoring cuts because $250 million is diverted to competitive grants. As a result the Executive budget would restore only 1 in 5 of dollars in classroom cuts. Reprogramming the competitive grants into classroom funding would restore 1 in 4 dollars of the classroom cuts as well as restarting New York's commitment to prekindergarten as called for by the Board of Regents. Plain and simply the $805 million is a step in the right direction, but are not adequate. The state legislature needs to redistribute the competitive grant funds as classroom aid and add additional funding to get New York back on track with the promise of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.