media
May 23, 2012

'Educate NY Now!' campaign addresses state's education crisis

Source: NYSUT Media Relations

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Contact: Nikki Jones (cell) 518-432-5315 njones@aqeny.org  

Campaign Coordinator Chad Radock (518) 288-5702 educatenynow@gmail.com  

LAUNCH: EDUCATE NY NOW!

Statewide Campaign Addresses New York State's Growing Educational Crisis

educate ny nowALBANY, NY -- Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - Today marked the public launch of a major new statewide campaign, Educate NY Now! The purpose of the 12-month campaign is to address the growing education crisis in New York State's public schools. Educate NY Now! unifies parents, educators, administrators, unions, school board members, community organizations, education advocates and others statewide around a broad-based campaign to demand that our state government fulfills New York's constitutional obligation to provide all students with a quality education. The campaign will organize a series of activities to highlight the issues that Governor Cuomo and state legislators must address to put New York State back on a path to providing every student with a "sound, basic education" as required by the state constitution.

State policies have undermined educational quality in communities all across New York due to cuts in teacher and staff positions, college Advance Placement courses, career and technical education, afterschool programs, sports, tutoring, pre- kindergarten, kindergarten and more. This erosion of the quality of education is the result of policies enacted in Albany and has led the State's Commissioner of Education to warn that schools face "educational insolvency." A statewide media teleconference call held today to announce the campaign's goals and agenda.

The campaign will enable local school communities to put a human face on how Albany's policies are hurting schools. The campaign brings together a broad cross-section of New Yorkers to organize local press conferences and other events to educate the public and dramatize the unfolding educational crisis, meet with legislators and state leaders, and participate in unified advocacy activities in Albany.

"Public education has a rich history as a vehicle for economic mobility and social justice in New York State. Sadly, that promise is endangered today for tens of thousands of students by regressive state funding policies that threaten to both economically and educationally bankrupt schools in our lowest wealth communities. Educate NY Now is a diverse coalition that shares one common goal - educational equity and opportunity for all of New York's children. I look forward to working with coalition members and others in the fight for educational excellence," said Mike Glover, Genesee Valley BOCES Superintendent.

"This coalition will add strength to the voice of parents and community members who, like the education community, are gravely concerned about the deep cuts to their schools over the last three years and the undemocratic tax cap that is stifling their ability to provide students with the programs and services they need," said Andrew Pallotta, NYSUT Executive Vice President.

"Public education is the key to building a strong economy. When we look to a region of the state to encourage business to expand, we first look to the school system. What programs are offered? What opportunities are present to advance our youth and ultimately our future economic power? The state drastically cutting and limiting its commitment to classroom funding is part of a pattern of starving regions of the state including ours. We demand change in the direction that leadership is taking our state. Our children deserve equal opportunities for quality educational programs and extracurricular activities, no matter where they live," said Doug Wyant, Superintendent of Schools, Hornell City School District.

"Polls show New Yorkers agree that Albany is taking our state's schools in the wrong direction, this coalition is designed to give voice to the vast majority of New Yorkers who want all our students to have quality public schools and to receive the 'sound, basic education' that is their constitutional right. New York State has been steadily passing the burden down to local taxpayers but cutting its share of classroom funding, the state has to shoulder up its fair share for our kids," said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education.

"The common ground we stand on feels a lot like quick sand," said Robert K. Libby, Cohoes Superintendent. "The erosion of state aid to low-wealth districts like Cohoes is threatening to rob a generation of students of the kind of education they deserve. I am hopeful this collaborative, year-round effort will serve as a reminder of the importance of equity in education and can ultimately make a difference for our students now and in the years to come."

"New York ranks 44th in the nation in education funding equity, according to a 2011 Rutgers University study. The massive cuts in 2011-12 and 2012-13 education aid have exacerbated this spending gap between poor and wealthy districts and relegate our neediest children to underfunded schools. Small city school districts, with their needier student populations and lower property wealth, rely most heavily on state aid for providing core educational services. Thus, these unprecedented cuts to education funding have dealt a heavy blow to already ailing schools. The Educate NY Now! campaign calls for prompt solutions: Our children suffer an irretrievable loss each year that they are denied their right to basic educational opportunities," said Robert Biggerstaff, Executive Director of the NYS Association of Small City School Districts.

"My children attend public school in Yonkers. My older child had an excellent experience with pre-kindergarten which helped him succeed in school. This year, pre-kindergarten for my younger child is only half day. Pre-kindergarten in Yonkers has been proven to increase high school graduation by 13% to 15%. This devastating cut in children's opportunity to succeed is the result of the misguided education policies coming out of Albany that are hurting our schools. According to the NY State Constitution, my children are guaranteed a 'sound, basic education.' That is why I am joining with parents, teachers, school leaders and communities all working together in this campaign that will make sure Albany fixes the problems it has created," said Lekia Hill, Parent, Yonkers CSD.

The Statement of Principles for Educate NY Now! Calls for New York's elected leaders to:

  • Prioritize successful student achievement, instead of undermining the quality of our schools.
  • Ensure educational equity and that all students have access to a high quality education that opens up personal and economic opportunities for them and benefits the future of New York. Prepare all students for college or other post secondary education, careers, and life.
  • Support public education as an engine for economic growth. Reverse the numerous cuts to the quality of education that our schools have been forced to implement.
  • Fulfill the moral, economic and constitutional imperative to provide every student a "sound, basic education."

The Statement of Principles identifies the following policies as undermining the quality of education:

  • The State has significantly reduced its role in funding our schools and passed the burden on to local communities. Ten years ago the state covered almost 50% of the costs of educating students, now the State covers only 40%. State funding for schools is now below what it was 4 years ago and this does not even account for inflation.
  • The combination of the newly imposed cap on state school aid and the cap on local funding through property taxes will force schools to continue cutting the quality of education year in and year out.
  • New York State has largely abandoned its commitments under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity to provide statewide funding for a "sound, basic education" which is the constitutional obligation.

Click HERE to review the campaign's statement of principles.

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