The New York State Legislature will vote on its budget next week, and one of the big sticking points is how to fund schools. At the center of that question is a decade-old provision called “Foundation Aid Funding.” It’s a formula created to make sure school districts receive state funding based on the specific needs of their students. But state budgets in the past ten years haven’t actually allocated the amounts that the formula suggest, and critics say the neediest kids are being left behind. And a new budget draft is now proposing further altering the formula. Parents and activists across the state visited their state reps today to protest the proposed changes. Mike Elsen-Rooney was there to report.
Raul Rothblatt and Zakiyah Ansari don’t see eye to eye. One is an aide for a New York State Senator from Crown Heights, and the other is a constituent protesting at his office
Rosenblatt 1: We have a disagreement on the strategy of how to get this money.
Ansari 1: I want to be clear, our disagreement is beyond disagreement. 40 million dollars this district is owed in Foundation Aid Formula.
Ansari is a constituent and mom. She’s outside State Senator Jesse Hamilton’s office, where Rothblatt works. She’s protesting something very personal to her: school funding.
Ansari 2: Let me be clear, I’ve been doing this work for 17 years, I’ve raised eight children in this district and my son is the last one in school, he wasn’t even born when I started doing this work.
A little more than a decade ago a group of concerned parents sued the state, claiming it wasn’t adequately funding the schools. Out of that lawsuit emerged the Foundation Aid Formula. That’s what Ansari and Rothblatt are now fighting over. The original formula allocates more money to districts with higher rates of poverty, English language learners, and students with disabilities. But now a group of state senators, including Hamilton, is proposing changing the formula, and removing poverty as one of the factors.
Ansari 3: How could you take poverty out of something and say you care about children in this district itself? So please, go ahead and respond.
Rothblatt 2: We unfortunately have a situation where a lot of New York Senators do not want to fund New York City schools. How to get the most money for schools is a difficult, difficult problem, and there’s no simple solution. There is no way to pass any budget without some Republican support.
But Ansari says that political calculations are no excuse when it comes to something as basic as school funding.
Ansari 4: As a parent in this community, it deeply troubles me that the advocacy that I’ve been doing and that many parents who are standing her and other that are not here today in ensuring that foundation aid comes to our schools, of which $40 million is owed right now, that we have someone who believes that, because we need republican support on this, and that was his only way…in this community we need people who are going to step up and stand up for us.
Ansari and her allies will see next week if their protest had the desired effects. The legislature has until April 1st to decide on a budget. Mike Elsen-Rooney, Columbia Radio News