In a letter to New York State Education Commissioner John King, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) is demanding that the State take immediate affirmative steps to ensure that the withholding of $240 million in state foundation aid from New York City does not result in cuts to core instruction, staff, programs and other essential education services for City schoolchildren.
CFE is also demanding that Commissioner King direct the City not to lay off teachers, increase class size, or reduce or eliminate school-based programs and services, and instead to restrict any budgetary cuts to administration, central office, consultant services and other non-essential expenditures.
“The State decided to withdraw these funds from the City’s budget, so the State must also make certain the City does not harm schoolchildren by cutting needed staff, programs and services, especially midway through the school year,” said David G. Sciarra, Executive Director of Education Law Center (ELC). ELC has recently undertaken CFE’s core mission of advancing the legal rights of New York’s schoolchildren.
The State’s withholding of foundation aid from the City Department of Education was triggered when the City failed to adopt a new protocol for teacher evaluations by January 17, a deadline set in legislation enacted last year. The aid withholding exacerbates serious deficiencies in instruction and programs in City schools, which have experienced significant cuts in critical staff and programs since 2009.
CFE notes that State funding for City schools is more than $2.5 billion below the level required by the 2007 Foundation Formula. As a result, class sizes have risen, and academic programs in art, music and the core sciences have been dropped. Schools do not have adequate numbers of teachers in core subjects and lack basic classroom supplies, among other issues created by massive underfunding.
“New York’s schoolchildren cannot afford any further erosion of their fundamental right to a sound basic education,” said Wendy Lecker, CFE Senior Attorney. “The State has a duty not only to adequately fund City schools but also to ensure that the City properly uses its funds to provide all children with the opportunity for a meaningful high school education.”
CFE is demanding Commissioner King direct the City to provide a detailed plan of mid-year reductions that are confined to administration, consultants and other non-essential expenditures.
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