BY MARIA BAUTISTA
Every election cycle, I hear politicians carry on about their platforms. Almost certainly, they always cite education as a top priority.
However, the reality is that public schools in New York City are owed $1.6 billion dollars and while politicians, like Governor Cuomo, like to say money doesn’t matter, I know that to be in stark contrast with the lived experiences of students, parents and teachers alike.
Just a couple months ago, 16 parents, community leaders and activists, including myself, walked from New York City to Albany to demand that NYS fully fund our public schools according to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. Along the way, we connected with community members in Yonkers, Ossining, Peekskill, Beacon, Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Catskill and Coxsackie, to name a few.
Their stories are eerily similar; large class sizes, school buildings in desperate need of repair, large number of staff cuts and the list went on and on. Each of these issues are longstanding, as a group of parents in 1993 started CFE, and in 2006, the highest court of New York decided they were right – students in New York City and across the state were not receiving the funding necessary for a “sound basic education”
And I ask myself why some children in this state are still waiting for their fair share?
Ten years after the CFE decision and parents still get back to school lists that include basic mundane items, while the lists itself are getting longer and longer. ten years later and students don’t have access to arts and music. ten years later and we are still not providing students with the resources necessary for them to reach their potential.
Not only have students been waiting 10 years too long, but also we know that the students affected by this systemic underfunding across the state are disproportionately low-income students, and students of color. The state cannot continue to rob already marginalized students of the opportunity to attend a school with the resources we know all children need and deserve.
Last year the Assembly voted for a 100 percent full phase in of CFE funds, yet the Senate voted for only 20 percent and Governor Cuomo a measly 6 percent.
The state has continued to refuse to comply with court orders to give children the education they need. On our 150-mile trek to Albany, we witnessed the inequity of New York State, where our legislature is picking and choosing whose children deserve access to a high quality education. We heard the stories of school districts having a guidance counselor ratio of 700:1, of influxes of English Language Learner students numbering to as much as 700, yet no capacity to hire additional support staff. We saw dilapidated buildings, minutes away from brand new state of the art prison facilities.