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Education by Subtraction

Report says five years of education cuts in New York state have created inequities that are unconstitutional

by Stephen Leon on March 6, 2014 · 1 comment

 

New York state is failing to meet its constitutional obligations to provide an equal educational opportunity to all New York students, according to a report released Monday by the Alliance for Quality Education and the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a project of the Education Law Center.

Last week, the Alliance toured 14 school districts across the state and documented the educational deficiencies they found. Among them: class sizes that have risen above 25 and in some cases 30; severe cuts to academic intervention programs including summer school and state-mandated tutoring; pre-K programs cut from a full day to a half day; school libraries that have closed or cut hours, or have no librarians; severe shortages of guidance counselors, social workers and school psychologists; cuts to arts and foreign language programs, as well as electives; and cuts to or elimination of enrichment/gifted programs.

“The educational resource deficiencies uncovered are extremely distressing,” said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, in the report. “The evidence is crystal clear: Governor Cuomo and the Legislature are failing to meet their constitutional obligations to provide for every student’s education.”

“The State’s school funding cuts are causing severe educational harm to New York’s school children, especially in high need, underfunded city and rural districts,” said David Sciarra, director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity project.

New York state government has long been criticized for inequities in divvying up state aid, and for consistently refusing to address the issue seriously.

“There is a persistent reluctance to look at funding equity in New York state,” said Laurence Spring, superintendent of Schenectady City School District. “The AQE tour has highlighted the deleterious effects of this underfunding, and the Schenectady City School District has suffered tremendously under the current system of funding.”

Schenectady was one of two Capital Region districts that were visited; the other was Cohoes.

The state Senate and Assembly are preparing their education budgets for a March 12 vote; AQE and CFE are preparing for a potential school-funding lawsuit.