Ridge parents, advocates, teachers demand aid for public schools

‘Fund our schools.’

A small but passionate group of parents, educators and advocates gathered outside State Senator Marty Golden’s office on Tuesday, March 28 to demand more attention and funds for public schools from Albany.

“We’ve organized because we are in a time of Trump and we clearly see what he’s about to do with public education,” said Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director for the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE). “It’s not a priority. More than ever, we need the states to step up. The reality is, whether you’re Democrat, Republican or independent, you should care about kids. Programs are being cut  like art and music. They don’t have English language learner teachers and don’t have access to advanced placement courses. Year after year, they’re cutting after-school and a host of programs and they can’t see fit to fund the equity lawsuit and it’s time to hold them accountable.”

According to the AQE, under the Foundation Aid formula, “If we were to fully fund this year’s obligation, every school in Senator Golden’s district would get an additional $1,784 per student, totaling more than $76 million this year alone.’

Jamie Kemmerer, vice president of Bay Ridge Democrats, explained that the group isn’t asking for more than what the courts have said the state owes New York schools. “Senator Golden could just look at the dollars that the students in our own district would get,” he stressed. “We are just looking for the money the state owes our schools and for an equitable distribution of that money for our children.”

The Foundation Aid formula was enacted in 2007 as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit  to ensure all schools would have the level of funding necessary to provide every student with the sound basic education that is their right under the New York State Constitution.

“I have eight children and am a grandmother of three,” added Ansari, who has been doing education organizing for 17 years. “Ten years after the highest court upheld the CFE decision in 2006, children have yet to receive the money — $1.9 billion owed to New York City and $4.3 billion owed to the whole state.”

AQE contends the state Senate “voted to gut the Foundation Aid formula despite the fact that that entire IDC [Independent Democratic Conference], and several Republican senators, publicly committed to support a full phase-in of the Foundation Aid owed.”

Kemmerer stresses that his family is being impacted as a result.  “If you look at the schools in this district, they are among the most overcrowded in the city. That $76 million could go a long way in helping the overcrowding in our neighborhood schools.”

However, Golden contends that he has made great strides for public schools. “Senator Marty Golden has been a true champion for our schools as both a member of the New York City Council and as a New York State Senator. Since his election in 2002 to the present school year, the City of New York has received 53 percent more funding from the state for our public schools to support programming, increase educational opportunities and make necessary upgrades,” John Quaglione, spokesperson for Golden, told this paper. “In addition to the record levels of funding, Senator Golden’s efforts have been instrumental in creating an unprecedented number of new classroom seats throughout his Senate district. Senator Golden celebrates the great strides we have made in building new schools, and vows to continue to address the need to reduce overcrowding.”

The United Federation of Teachers’ Marvin Reiskin also was on hand. “We need Marty’s support for public education,” he said. “Our main issue is that the money shouldn’t be devoted to other issues like charter schools, vouchers or for parochial schools and such. It has to be money for public education. He has to be an advocate for public education. Golden represents a school district which is pretty good but the rest of the city, that’s the responsibilities of all our elected officials.”

“We are here to tell Senator Golden that it’s time for him and his senate Republican colleagues to step up and fund these schools,” Ansari added. “If he really cared about the kids in his district, he’d ensure that the money would get to his schools. The budget that Senate Republicans are proposing does not bring dollars to his district.”

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