It’s Not Too Late for the Regents to Stop Reductions in Extra Supports for Struggling Students

Back in September we informed you about the harmful, inequitable, and unconstitutional decision made by the New York Board of Regents to approve a request from the New York State Education Department to eliminate the right to additional instructional support (see p. 11) for many thousands of students who were unable to pass the new state exams this past spring.

As we described, because larger numbers of students did poorly on the tougher new statewide tests, the state ed. department asked the Regents for permission to limit the number of students who would be eligible for academic intervention services (AIS)—extra support to help students meet demanding new standards—to the same number of students who received such support last year. As we said, at a time when the state claims to want to raise standards, this makes no sense.

Why would the New York’s educational leadership deny so many students their right to extra academic help? Purely because providing these needed instructional supports would impose extra costs on already cash-strapped schools and school districts. This proposed policy shift is yet another example of how basic educational resources and services are currently being jeopardized by inadequate state funding for schools.

The good news is that it is not too late for the Regents to change their mind and restore these important supports to students who need them. It turns out that the Regents’ decision in September was only a temporary, emergency amendment. To make the decision permanent, a final vote must be taken during the Regents’ regularly scheduled two-day meeting in Albany on December 15-16, roughly three weeks away.

At its November meeting, the Regents agreed to allow SED to continue denying New York students the right to more help this school year if they failed the new tests last spring. And it is likely they will continue this inequitable and unconstitutional action In December unless New Yorkers send them a clear message that they oppose this clear violation of our children’s educational rights.

There are many ways to express your views to the Regents and the state ed. department, to your state representatives, and to the governor. You can also raise this issue at your neighborhood school, throughout your personal and professional networks, and at every education-related public meeting (e.g., school board, community education council, government hearings on education) you can attend between now and December 15th.

Working together, we can ensure all of our children the educational opportunities they need in order to succeed in school and to which they are entitled under the state constitution.

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A New York Town Rallies to Defend Its Students’ Education Rights

The Campaign was inspired by a strong example of education-focused civic engagement set by one New York school district’s officials and community members earlier this month. On November 6, in Ossining, NY, we participated in a panel discussion and community forum that drew close to 200 concerned parents, students, and other community members as well as education experts from around the state. The event, entitled “Stop Underfunding Ossining Schools: Unfreeze NYS Foundation Aid,” was organized by the office of Superintendent Raymond Sanchez in collaboration with Ossining’s school board and Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee under the leadership of Alita McCoy Zuber, Assistant Superintendent for Business.

Between 2007-08 and 2012-13, Ossining experienced a 17% increase in student enrollment, and the number of children living in poverty grew 27%. However, the district has not received additional per pupil funding from the state that would allow it to meet the educational needs of its new students and maintain the quality instructional program that existing students had been receiving. [Click here to view the related presentation.] Because, based on the state’s own funding formula, New York State has underfunded Ossining schools to the tune of $35.5 million over four yearsthe school district was forced to cut more than 100 staff positions and slash services for students.

A school board resolution calling upon the state government to fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide the resources to allow Ossining to give all its students a sound basic education was proposed and unanimously passed by the school board. Applause from panelists, community members, and an impressively engaged group of high school students signaled the urgency of the matter.

CEE distributed copies of our Safeguarding Sound Basic Education research brief and, during the panel discussion, encouraged attendees to consult our Essential Resources document, one of the most powerful tools available to New Yorkers looking to ensure that students receive, at the very least, the full complement of educational opportunities guaranteed by state law.

Throughout New York State, community by community, we all must sound the alarm and come together to assess our challenges, analyze our options, and work collectively to advocate for our children’s educational rights. If students in your school district have been harmed by cuts in state education aid and you are planning to host a similar community forum to mobilize your families and other neighbors, please email us at equity@tc.columbia.edu.