Tue, Mar 24, 2009
Education Organizations Call for Fair Share Tax Reform Coupled with Federal Stimulus to Restore $2 Billion of $2.5 Billion School Aid Cut
Ask Legislature to Reject Governor's 8-Yr. Phase-in of Campaign for Fiscal Equity Settlement
Albany, NY -- Major statewide education organizations were joined by parents and school district officials from Buffalo, Long Island and Albany in calling on the legislature to restore $2 billion of the $2.5 billion in school funding cuts proposed by the legislature. The organizations delivered a letter to Governor Paterson and state legislative leaders calling for enactment of Fair Share Tax Reform combined with federal stimulus dollars to pay for the restorations. A Siena Research Institute poll released Monday shows that by a margin of 56% to 38%, New Yorkers prefer the combination of using federal stimulus dollars and raising income taxes on those earning over $250,000 to making budget cuts.
â€śAfter 13 years of Campaign for Fiscal Equity litigation, the New York Court of Appeals gave the state four years to provide public school students with their constitutional right to a sound basic education. After two years of payments on the CFE settlement, the Executive budget proposes to make cuts to last year's levels, no payment of CFE funds, and stretch out the CFE phase-in from four to eight years. Once again, the school children of New York are the sacrificial lambs of the bad economy. Faced with the same economic challenges, President Obama and the Congress increased education funding and prioritized phasing in payments for CFE adequacy adjustments in the federal stimulus recognizing their value for the recovery. This infusion makes it possible for the State to restore at least half of the Governorâ€™s proposed $2.5 billion cut to education. Itâ€™s the Stateâ€™s turn to do its part and restore a total of $2 billion, making a substantial down payment on the third year commitment to CFE to continue the hard-won progress. To do this, it is necessary to enact Fair Share Tax Reform to ensure that our school children receive a fair and reasonable proportion of these new tax revenues and that the CFE promise is kept,â€ť said Geri D. Palast, Executive Director, Campaign for Fiscal Equity.
"We have mandates from the State Education Department in regards to regents and standardized testing at every grade level," says Wyandanch Union Free School District's Assistant Superintendent Denise Gibbs. "The district is also mandated to provide a balanced budget. On the other hand the state government is considering cutbacks where we already lack the monetary assistance that we need to expedite these goals. We are doing everything we possibly can."
â€śFor the past 16 years, court orders and the consistent drum beat demanding full and fair school funding was met with delays and excuses even in good times,â€ť said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. â€śThis economic downturn cannot become yet the latest excuse for breaking promise to provide our children a decent education. The federal stimulus gives us a head start on restoring school cuts; add Fair Share Tax Reform and it is entirely realistic to expect restoration of $2 billion of the $2.5 billion in cutsâ€”even then school children will be asked to sacrifice $500 million which is a bitter pill to swallow.â€ť
Following the press conference a letter signed by the education groups calling for a $2 billion restoration of the Governor's $2.5 billion education cuts and a significant down payment on this yearâ€™s CFE funds was delivered to the Governor and the state legislative leaders.
"For every year that the state doesn't deliver on its commitment under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement, the drop out crisis for students still learning English threatens to get worse. Already only one in ten of these students graduates with a Regents diploma," said Chung Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "The state must invest in these students, who make up a significant portion of the school population, by using CFE to create quality programs to learn English, which in turn would expand the workforce and strengthen the economy."
Education aid included in the federal stimulus package for both k-12 education and higher education totals $2.5 billion over the course of two years. This aid will begin to restore some of the proposed education cuts but will fall short. The Fair Share Tax Reform plan will generate $6 billion in new revenue which could be used to blunt the impact on school districts statewide.
Among the groups participating in the event were the Alliance for Quality Education, Citizen Action of New York, Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Education Voters of New York, New York Immigration Coalition, Long Island Progressive Coalition.
Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the stateâ€™s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >