Advocates slam NY governor's proposed education budget

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Advocates and parents in New York protested last week demanding more education funding in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget, which could be used for badly needed resources like technology.

Organized by the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-backed advocacy group, demonstrators rallied outside five schools in New York City and held “walk-ins” to talk to families inside schools. They called for community members to put pressure on lawmakers, criticizing the state’s insufficient investment in education.

In his budget, Cuomo proposed a $24.5 billion education budget, increasing it by $2.1 billion over two years. About $1 billion would be available this year. But the New York State Board of Regents estimated that districts will need about $2.4 billion more, according to the Regents’ budget proposal.

“What [Cuomo] put out is woefully inadequate for children,” Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director of AQE, said in an interview with EdScoop.

Ansari said schools will have to slash resources, staff and after-school programs if they don’t have sufficient funding. The money is also significant for districts to maintain and upgrade their technology infrastructures. In high-needs districts, many students don’t have computers at home and can only access devices in school, Ansari said.

“Many schools lack up-to-date technology, working computers, working printers – all those things that students need to be globally competitive,” Ansari said. “That is missing in a lot of our schools, as well as infrastructure like Wi-Fi.”

Her organization is assembling parents and community members to protest and make their voices heard by Apr. 1, when the legislative phase ends and the new fiscal year begins. Ansari said that they demand $2.4 billion more in the next fiscal year, and $1.4 billion out of it should go to Foundation Aid, a funding formula that would benefit high-needs schools.

Cuomo said the Foundation Aid amount promised in 2007 by his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, was “outrageously high,” and that education spending in his administration has increased significantly, the Journal News reported.

“Over the past five years, we’ve steadily built back to where you have the highest investment in education in the history of the state of New York,” Cuomo said last month.

But that didn’t comfort Ansari.

“For him to say that he is giving enough money … is wrong,” she said. “He is not catering to the millions of young children who depend on that money so that they can have opportunities and greater education.”

Reach the reporter at yizhu.wang@edscoop.com and follow her on Twitter @yizhuevy and @edscoop_news.

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