Advertisement

New York teachers march to state capital to demand more funding for public schools

Public school teachers say New York needs to make good on its promise to equitably fund its schools.

Robert Jackson, lead plaintiff for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York case and former New York City Council member at Yonkers City Hall. CREDIT: Courtesy of Alliance for Quality Education New York.
Robert Jackson, lead plaintiff for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York case and former New York City Council member at Yonkers City Hall. CREDIT: Courtesy of Alliance for Quality Education New York.

New York parents, educators, and students are drawing attention to what they call the under-funding of public schools by marching from New York City to Albany, the state capital — a 150-mile walk.

The march, which began on Sunday, will continue for eight days. Although the march began in New York City, educators, parents, and students from all over New York will eventually join in to voice their solidarity with other marchers. Eighty-five organizations are supporting the march.

The march recognizes the 10-year anniversary of the 2006 Campaign for Fiscal Equity case. Nonprofit organization CFE — whose mission is to ensure equity in the quality of education students receive across the state — sued New York state back in 1993, claiming it was violating the state constitution by failing to provide New York children with a “sound basic education.” After a 13-year long legal battle, CFE won its case.

In 2007, the New York legislature enacted the State Education Budget and Reform Act, which was aimed at addressing these funding issues. But organizers point out there’s still a huge gap in the quality of education students receive from school to school.

Students participate in Yonkers City Hall press conference for the march to Albany. CREDIT: Alliance for Quality Education New York.
Students participate in Yonkers City Hall press conference for the march to Albany. CREDIT: Alliance for Quality Education New York.

According to a report on state funding of public schools from Alliance for Quality Education New York, the state’s schools overall are owed additional funding of $3.9 billion, with $1.63 billion belonging to New York City. New York’s education aid for the next fiscal year came to $24.8 billion, an increase of $1.5 billion, and funding for charter schools rose to an extra $430 per charter school student. But advocates for equity in education say the state still needs to allocate more than $4 billion in additional funding to meet its requirements under the 2006 CFE case.

Advertisement

The marchers are calling the underfunding of public schools “racist” and “classist,” and say that lawmakers and the governor are perpetuating the idea that public schools are failing due to teachers’ and administrators’ failures rather than due to persistent lack of funds.

“You can’t turn around say how horrible teachers are and how horrible the schools are when our schools are not fully funded, when resources in classrooms and all of these other things are taken away from us,” Mindy Rosier, a special education teacher, told ThinkProgress.

Rosier teaches at a District 75 school, which means the school serves students with significant cognitive and behavioral challenges. It was co-located with a Success Academy school, and soon her school began to lose classrooms. During the Michael Bloomberg administration many co-locations, meaning schools shared buildings, were approved, and traditional public school teachers and administrators said charter schools were taking so many classrooms that some of the traditional public schools were struggling to provide a quality education to their students. The de Blasio administration has since pushed back on many of these co-locations.

Advertisement

Rosier said she is excited to join other teachers across the state to demand better funding of New York’s public schools.

“I love that we’re going to connect with other school districts and see their stories and see their struggles and support them, accumulating to the end where we’re going to go to Albany and say ‘Listen, this is how much you owe our schools, pay up,’” Rosier said. “After 10 years, enough is enough.”

When asked how she feels about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approach to education policies, Rosier answered that she doesn’t trust him. Rosier, who is a delegate, said he appeared flustered when she approached him at the Democratic National Convention to voice her concerns.

“I got a photo and took a picture with him and he was all smiles, and I said ‘Let me introduce myself … I’m Mindy Rosier and I’m a proud public school teacher and for the last few years, I’ve been coming after you for what you’ve been doing to our profession.’ His face immediately dropped, he turned around didn’t say anything to me and walked away,” Rosier recounted.

Advertisement

Rosier’s interaction with the governor is likely an accurate representation of Cuomo’s relationship with many public school teachers. Teachers unions have pushed hard against his policies, such as his insistence that test scores make up a larger percentage of teacher evaluations during his 2015 State of the State speech.