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Letter to New York Senators: Restore $240 Million in State Aid to NYC

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Published: 3/14/2013 3:33:00 PM

March 13, 2013 

 
Dear Leader Klein and Senators Felder, Golden, Lanza, Savino and Smith:
 
New York City students face the imminent threat of losing at least $240 million in funding for vital educational services unless you take immediate action.  These threatened cuts are in response to the inability of the New York City Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers to negotiate an agreement regarding teacher evaluations. The 1.1 million New York City school children are not a party to these negotiations, yet their education will suffer consequences if these cuts are allowed to go forward.
 
Fortunately there is an alternative. The State Assembly voted for an education budget bill that would restore the $240 million for New York City.  We were disappointed and dismayed to learn that as the members of the Senate Majority who represent New York City you voted in favor of a budget bill that would proceed with the cuts being enacted.
 
Yesterday, Leader Klein publicly recognized that you believe these cuts are “an unfair way of penalizing the city.”  We wholeheartedly agree. 
 
We write, however, because Leader Klein’s position is not reflected in the budget bill that all of you voted for in the Senate.  The same budget bill adds funding specifically targeted to high wealth school districts in the form of high tax aid.  Senators representing high wealth districts have successfully prevailed upon all the members of the Majority conference to back this funding for the districts they represent.  In like measure, New York City school children urgently need the support of your insistence on moving forward with the restoration of the $240 million in the budget to prevent any loss of essential programs, staff and services in the City’s schools.
 
These cuts have serious educational consequences for the students of New York City and undercut their constitutional right to a “sound basic education” as established in the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity litigation. They also deny equal protection of the laws to students in New York City, since the full funding amount that you and the rest of the legislature determined last spring was necessary to provide students a sound basic education is being provided to all other students in the state--except for those in New York City and four small upstate districts. The educational needs of kids in the city have not changed--and their educational opportunities should not be harmed.
 
As you are aware, a group of New York City parents is currently litigating this issue in the State Supreme Court, New York County. Justice Manuel Mendez, as soon as this situation was brought to his attention, held that imposition of this penalty would "potentially harm innocent students, particularly those classified as "at risk" (i.e. disabled, low income and bi-lingual), and who cannot afford to lose any state funding." He promptly issued a preliminary injunction that has prohibited the state from withholding these funds from the New York City schools.
 
It is critical, therefore, that this matter could be resolved without delay if would you join with the Assembly in supporting the restoration of these funds. Funds for New York City schools should not be diverted to fund other parts of the state budget as is proposed under the Executive Budget. Simply put,  funding already allocated for the education of New York City school children should not be diverted to other parts of the FY14 State Budget as is proposed by the Executive.
 
The original rationale for enacting the cut will be made moot by the fact that the Governor and the legislature are set to enact a binding arbitration that will result in a teacher evaluation system being implemented if one is not successfully negotiated.  The only impact of proceeding with the $240 million cut will be that the students will be the ones who are punished.
We are, therefore, asking for your commitment to join with the Assembly and fully support restoration of the $240 million in funding earmarked for New York City.
 
Sincerely,
 
Michael A. Rebell, Attorney for Plaintiffs in Aristy-Farer v. State of New York
David Sciarra, Executive Director, Education Law Center
Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education
Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director, Alliance for Quality Education
 
Download the letter here