Yesterday, the New York Times, which two years ago published an article about our research revealing the effects of the state’s systemic failure to ensure that all students can access at least a basic set of educational opportunities, called on Governor Cuomo to address the “inequality in school funding that prevents many poor districts from lifting their children up to state standards” (access the full editorial, “The Central Crisis in New York Education” here).
The major gaps in educational opportunities came as no surprise to many parents, students, and educators for whom they are an everyday reality with real-life consequences, but many people were shocked by the depth and range of the inadequacies. Some schools in New York City and other underfunded districts around the state were unable to provide students a complete basic curriculum, much less additional instructional support for students struggling to meet state standards; teachers and parents regularly spent hundreds of dollars on basic instructional materials because schools couldn’t; and students with disabilities and English language learners were taught in inappropriate settings or received inadequate support, simply for lack of space and personnel. And those are just a few examples.
As the Times reminds readers, the State Board of Regents, which governs education policy in New York, last month strongly advised the governor that the additional accountability reforms he wants to push through would have minimal impact “unless they were paired with new investments along the lines of the $2 billion in extra spending that the regents had recommended earlier . . . to address the ‘deeply disturbing inequalities in resources’ that exist between poor and wealthy districts.”
To put that proposed one-time $2 billion increase in context, in 2007 the state legislature and then-Governor Spitzer promised an additional $7 billion a year in order to ensure all children at least the basics, and a lawsuit filed in February 2014 by New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights asserts that the state is still $5.6 billion below that annual commitment.
Over the past few years, the Campaign for Educational Equity team has advanced this issue through extensive research and engagement activities like community-based, educational-rights workshops, teen-produced rights-focused performances, user-friendly handouts to help families and the larger public understand the educational opportunities required by state law. We are currently spearheading a statewide task force that draws upon the expertise of a range of educators and other education stakeholders and experts. The group’s mission is to develop a coherent set of proposals for updating New York’s education regulations and funding policies in a way that truly fosters excellence and equity for all students. Everyone at the table understands that policy change without adequate resources for meeting student’s basic educational needs may be good politics but is bad governance and bad for children.
Will the governor get it right in his “State of the State” address on January 21st? Does he understand that millions of New York children struggle to meet state standards less because the policies need to be tweaked but because the state continues to ignore its obligation to supply basic educational resources to all students no matter their race, class, or neighborhood?
We’ll see, soon enough.