Guest Editorial by Alliance for Quality Education
A report released Tuesday by the public education advocacy organization Alliance for Quality Education shows how Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pandemic-era policies continue a trend of balancing the state’s budget at the expense of the educational resources and opportunities for Black, brown and low-income students.
Just a few short weeks from the start of a new school year that will be full of new challenges and additional costs, the Department of Budget is considering a 20% cut in school aid. This report from AQE, titled “Set Up to Fail: How Cuomo’s School Cuts Target New York’s Black & Brown Students,” shows how that 20% reduction in overall school aid would be disproportionately cut from high need school districts, serving New York's largest populations of Black and brown students. Some districts have already begun the process of making further cuts to their programming and personnel.
Overall, the report shows high need school districts are facing a $2,626 per student cut. In contrast, wealthy school districts, which are far more able to absorb a cut and maintain programming, staffing and student services, are facing a per student cut of just $873.
By contrast, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, made a $300 million cut to public schools this spring; but under Gov. DeWine’s plan, the high-need districts in Ohio lost only 1% of their state funding, while wealthy districts lost 40%. DeWine publicly stated that he had an obligation to protect the state’s most vulnerable students, and leave the wealthy districts, which have more local resources, to bear the brunt of the state’s cuts – a stark contrast to the thinking and actions of the Democratic governor of New York.
School leaders have spent months carefully crafting plans to meet the educational and emotional needs of students, while practicing social distancing and keeping everyone safe. To cut funding to districts now would mean districts will have to throw out current plans and create new reopening strategies, with limited time and resources.
New York's children have already experienced enough trauma from this pandemic. In the short term, the governor can mitigate the devastating effects of cuts by immediately tapping into the state’s $3.7 billion in reserves, a stop-gap until Congress takes action.
However, more long term, sustainable action is necessary. S7378/A10363, sponsored by Sen. Robert Jackson and Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, would raise the income tax rate on those making over $1 million and raise $4.5 billion annually, and devote the revenue raised to funding school operating aid. The Legislature must take action to raise revenue to protect students from these devastating cuts.
If the governor does enact cuts, he cannot make a regressive cut of 20% to all school districts. It is essential that the most vulnerable students are protected. The governor, Department of Budget and State Legislature will need to develop a more equitable solution to cut the least from high-need districts and cutting the most from wealthy districts.