GUEST VIEW: Full foundation aid is a must – Opinion – Times Telegram

0
35

It is my firm belief that our communities are only as strong as our children and their ability to succeed in the future. As such, we must ensure that adequate investment in our schools is a priority during this budget year and in all others.

New York’s children have an unlimited potential to succeed, but only if they are given the opportunity. This begins by fully funding the foundation aid formula, and introducing reforms, if needed.

In 2006, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, issued a final ruling in a lawsuit led by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), holding that all children in New York have the constitutional right to a “sound basic education.” Unfortunately, at the time, the court also found that the state was failing to fulfill that obligation.

As a result of the CFE litigation and the court ruling, the foundation aid formula was proposed and enacted to achieve equity for all public schools across New York. At the time, there was bipartisan and bicameral agreement that foundation aid was a great step toward achieving the best results for our students.

The new formula responded to the court’s order that the state align its funding with the need of all the various school districts based on the actual costs of providing a sound basic education. It calculated districts’ actual costs and recognized that the programs and services needed by students who are economically disadvantaged, those with disabilities and English language learners are often more costly.

While foundation aid was designed to increase classroom operating aid by billions of dollars statewide over a phase-in period of four years, New York state only met its funding targets for the 2007-08 and 2008-09 fiscal years. Since then, the formula has been chronically underfunded.

Almost a decade and a half later, we see the same conditions in many of our schools that led to the CFE lawsuit — despite school districts’ strong efforts to remain fiscally responsible.

It is extremely disappointing to see a formula which was designed to fix the problems that so many students face ignored to the point that it is a detriment to our students.

In the 119th Assembly District, elementary-level classes can be crowded with 30 students or more. Schools often lack enough specialized teachers and resources for English language learners. Guidance counselors serve hundreds of students, leaving little opportunity for individualized attention to ensure that students are having their needs met. Summer school classes and tutoring, along with vital after-school programs, are in short supply for students who need them.

This is true for all of our districts, but especially the small city school districts of Utica and Rome, which have both faced massive staff and programming cuts as they remain drastically underfunded by the foundation aid formula.

We can and must do better for our students. The 2020-21 state budget must prioritize the funding owed to our districts and communities in order to fulfill our moral, constitutional, and economic duty to properly invest in the education of our students. Whether we like it or not, money matters in education. It allows us to lower class sizes, maintain safe and healthy schools, care for our students’ mental health needs, and provide enrichment programs for students that ensure all students have the opportunities they need to succeed, no matter the path they take in life.

I will continue to work to ensure our students get their fair share of funding. When it comes to foundation aid: fund it or fix it!

Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, D-Marcy, represents New York’s 119th District.

Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here