Fight Back Friday: Fair funding

Education funding was in the news a lot this week.  It started with the Feb. 19 release of “For Each and Every Child,” a report from a federal commission that included Randi Weingarten and Dennis Van Roekel, presidents of the AFT and NEA, respectively. Click here to go directly to a link for the full report. It’s a long report, so let me try to summarize:  Most communities’ primary method for funding public schools — property taxes — is one reason for disparate resources among school districts. Communities with elevated real estate values can generate more money for schools, at a lower tax rate, than towns and cities with lower property values.

That report was months in the making, just like NYSUT’s lawsuit over the irresponsible tax cap. There was no way the union’s legal eagles knew that federal report would come out the day before they went to court to challenge the cap to protect the principle that every student — no matter where he or she lives — should have the opportunity to receive a quality public education.

Here’s one of the briefest summaries about the case while here is more extensive coverage from news media outlets. Here are the stories of five parents and NYSUT members who joined NYSUT in bringing the suit, and why.

Then, that same day as the lawsuit was filed, a number of lawmakers held a press conference about state aid. Here’s a Syracuse Post Standard article, here’s a link from the Senate homepage and here’s an article from the Catskill Daily Mail.

I include that Catskill news article because, if you read to the end, the reporter chose to conclude with a school board president’s lament that her district is “beyond cutting to the bone” and her upstate district has a “skeleton staff.”

Readers of NYSUT United might recall this article from last year, when Elmira schools superintendent Joseph Hochreiter warned “Get ready for skeleton schools.”

For those who are really into property taxes, keep in mind, that not every building in a community generates property taxes, which can make the burden even heavier. This recent Utica Observer-Dispatch article makes that point, and here’s a Gannett article about the town of Vestal’s court case from October trying to get property taxes on just one parcel.

Back to the federal report, it urged states and the federal government to send more tax dollars to high-poverty schools to compensate for the imbalance in local funding. Right now, Congress is considering cuts to education. Please call 866-293-7278 and tell your federal representative that cutting students’ education is not the solution to our current budget crisis. You can also go to NYSUT’s action center to fax your lawmakers.

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