Almost 30 lawmakers joined with NYSUT and citizen groups to oppose the proposed state budget’s competitive grant proposal. Many provided quotes in advance that you can find here.
Parents were compelling and NYSUT’s Andy Pallotta drew strong support when he declared education is not a game show. The assembled citizens and lawmakers added their voices to the swelling chorus of individuals who have signed NYSUT’s online petition. Our point: Competitive grants put the neediest students at a huge disadvantage and the state budget must be directed fairly to what all students need.. You can add your signature here in support.
Assemblywoman Annette Robinson cut to the chase on the issue and she provided the hed for this blog when she said “Children should compete for grades … not for money.” Robinson recalled her service on the New York City Council in the early 1990s.
“I remember challenge grants for cultural institutions,” she said, noting that what that meant was those institution who had the resources to have grant writers would get the funds “while those who didn’t were left with the challenge.”
Many lawmakers who spoke represented students and communities of color. They gave specifics about what they see when they tour schools. They called awarding increases in education aid competitively a form of discrimination.
Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry said “We can not have a separate but equal public education system. We need to correct the mistakes and the criminal behavior that is happening relative to black education.” The Queens Democrat who chairs the Assembly Correction Committee went on to explain “it is criminal because when you don’t succeed in education you end up being in jail for the most part. When you look at who is in jail in this state and around the country, it tends to disproportionally be people of color. Why? Because of the poverty, wealth and educational disparities that we see. It’s directly attributed. Every study tells you that.”
Civil rights were invoked numerous times and the Alliance for Quality Education, which co-sponsored the press conference with NYSUT and Citizen Action of New York announced that the New Jersey-based Election Law Center is taking over on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. You may recall the CFE decision ruled that the state must provide a sound, basic education and that for years the state had short-changed students in New York City. (Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the Legislature in 2007 enacted a new formula and multi-year aid increases to comply with the lawsuit. Cuts have since eroded that advance.)
Assemblyman Keith Wright invoked Langston Hughes, while Assemblymembers Marcus Crespo, Vanessa Gibson, Carl Heastie Guillermo Linares and others brought up specifics about what they had seen in schools. Sen. John Sampson and Sen Kevin Parker brought up sports metaphors. Sen. Sampson, the minority leader of the state Senate vowed action after noting how the competitive grants make sure there are not level playing fields for students “We can’t go home unless we make sure that we give (students) a better opportunity than we had.”
Zakiyah Ansari is a parent in New York City whose children should have seen the promise of CFE become reality, she said. Instead her students have seen two years of cutbacks and now “competitive grants that take away the very essence of the CFE decision” that all students have the right to the same resources, not just those districts that succeed at winning grants.
David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center said that if the competitive grants remain in the budget the center would look at what legal actions they could take. “We’re here to work with the legislators here, the advocates and others to make sure that this budget is revised to conform to the basic legal requirements of the New York constitution,” Sciarra said at the conference. The competitive grants proposed in the budget “are not consistent with the legislature’s foundation aid formulas.” Below are some of the comments. Sorry for my shaky hand!!