Parents and Students Unite at CEE’s Know Your Educational Rights End-of-Year Celebration

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A few of our amazing 2014-2015 Know Your Educational Rights partners: Community School District 6 parents and students from Epic Theatre Ensemble’s “Epic NEXT” program!

On Monday, June 15, the Campaign for Educational Equity recognized and celebrated with a group of outstanding partners—teams of parents and high school students who contributed to the success of this year’s “Know Your Educational Rights” (KYER) program, a groundbreaking public-engagement initiative from CEE to equip key education stakeholders with a thorough, research-based understanding of students’ rights under New York State law.

Our 2014-15 partnerships included a workshop series with Community Education Council 6, which represents schools in West Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood; our Educational Equity ACTion! project with Epic Theatre Ensemble; and extensive consultations with several schools in Community School Districts 5 and 6.

During the celebration, students and parents alike spoke about how participating in our KYER projects had affected their lives and helped them become more effective advocates for themselves, their families, and their respective communities.

The Epic students performed excerpts from the monologues they wrote based on three sources of information: the workshops we conducted with them last summer; interviews with a range of education stakeholders, including parents, teachers, administrators, and advocates; and our parent- and youth-friendly Know Your Educational Rights handout series.

Click here to view photos from the celebration!

Click here to make a donation to sustain and expand our efforts to equip New York students and families with high-quality information about their educational rights!

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CEE Proposes New Financing System to Expand Use of School-Based Health Centers

Earlier today, CEE released a new report, Supporting Learning through Better Health: A Strategy to Ensure Adequate and Stable Funding for School-Based Health Centers in New York State, which outlines a financing strategy that would promote the expansion of school-based health centers (SBHCs) throughout New York.

SBHCs provide valuable medical, mental health, and other reproductive services within the school building where students can readily access them. Studies have shown that these centers can substantially improve both health and academic outcomes, especially for students from low-income families and communities. New York has, until recently, been more supportive of SBHCs than most states. Still, only 5% of New York schools currently have one.

This low percentage of existing SBHCs is largely due to the financial risk that schools and health agencies take in running them, as a result of current financing schemes. Most students in the schools that can benefit the most from having a SBHC are eligible for Medicaid and Child Health Plus funding, but federal and state regulations are written for hospitals, not schools, and this makes it difficult for SBHCs to obtain reimbursement for many of the services they provide.

Making things worse, Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health are currently pressing to move SBHCs into the state’s Medicaid managed care system, from which they had previously been exempt. This transition would dramatically reduce revenues for SBHCs, which would likely lead to service cutbacks, and, ultimately, the demise of many SBHCs, most severely affecting underserved low-income communities.

The CEE report advances a financing strategy that would fill the gap between the insufficient revenues that SBHCs now receive and their actual operating costs. The Campaign proposes that the state guarantee each SBHC a reasonable annual per-student rate that covers the actual cost of efficiently providing necessary and required health services. The state would then be reimbursed by Medicaid and private insurers for most of these costs.

Our approach provides adequate, stable funding for existing SBHCs through a mechanism that involves no additional per-student costs to the state. In fact, by maximizing federal reimbursements, this system would result in a reduction in the percentage of SBHC costs that the state is now paying. The assurance of adequate and stable funding should lead to a strong growth in the number of SBHCs, resulting in improved delivery of health services and greater school success for students from low-income households.

In response to the report, Dr. David Appel, Director of the School Health Program, Albert Einstein School of Medicine, Montefiore Hospital, said, “The Campaign for Educational Equity is proposing an insightful and feasible plan that could dramatically change the nature of funding for School Based Health Centers — and thereby improve the health and the education of hundreds of thousands of New York City’s school children.”

Charles E. Basch, Richard March Hoe Professor of Health and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, also stated: “Providing a stable funding system for SBHCs that have a strategic focus on eliminating health barriers to learning can substantially help reduce  health and educational disparities among America’s most vulnerable youth.”

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Michael A. Rebell, executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, was the prime author of the report, with editorial assistance from Jessica R. Wolff, CEE’s policy director and research assistance from Linda Moon. Funding to support this research was provided by the James and Judith K. Dimon Foundation. The report does not necessarily reflect the views of Teachers College, its trustees, administrators, or other faculty.

NYSER Plaintiffs File Summary Judgment Motion

In 2014, New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) filed a lawsuit on the behalf of New York State’s public school students charging that the state is neglecting its constitutional duty to ensure that every student receives a “sound basic education.” In NYSER v. State of New York, plaintiffs argue the state has failed to implement the school-funding reforms that it committed to adopt in response to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) court decisions.

To move the case ahead more quickly, earlier last week, NYSER plaintiffs filed a “motion for summary judgment” that asks State Supreme Court Justice Manuel J. Mendez to bypass a lengthy trial and declare, based on the state’s indisputable actions and inactions in recent years, that the state has violated the Court of Appeals’ CFE orders and has failed to achieve constitutional compliance.

Plaintiffs argue that, despite recent increases, there are still significant gaps in core foundation funding for education. According to the plaintiffs, foundation aid for 2015-16 will still be almost $5 billion less than what the state determined was necessary to ensure that every school can provide all of its students with at least a sound basic education.

Plaintiffs in the case include 25 parents from around the state and NYSER, an organization whose members include 11 of New York City’s community education councils, the New York State PTA, New York State School Boards Association, the New York State Council of School Superintendents, the New York State Association of School Business Officials, the Statewide School Finance Consortium, the Rural Schools Association, and a number of other parent and advocacy groups. Counsel for plaintiffs are Michael A. Rebell, Esq., and Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, Douglas T. Schwarz, John A. Vasallo, and Brendan T. Chestnut, of counsel.

The recent motion asks Justice Mendez to give the state a deadline of the 2016-17 school year to remedy constitutional violations either by providing full funding in accordance with the foundation funding formula set forth in the state statutes or by creating an alternative state education finance system that meets constitutional requirements.

Read more about this new development and the NYSER v. State of New York case at www.NYSER.org.