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.

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