On Tuesday, parents and educators joined advocates for a press conference at the Utica Public Library calling out Senators Valesky, Griffo and Seward for their votes last week blocking state funding owed to Central New York public schools and other districts.

The vote against fair and adequate funding comes right on the heels of a letter from Senators Tedisco, Amedore, Murphy and Griffo committing to phasing in the full foundation aid funding in this year’s budget. Senator Valesky’s vote against fair and adequate funding was taken as part of his membership with the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) that has joined with the Senate Republicans to form the Senate Majority.

Schools statewide are owed $4.3 billion in Foundation aid, of which schools in Senator Valesky’s Senate District are owed $66 million, Senator Griffo’s District are owed $76 million, and Senator Seward’s District are owed $29 million. Utica schools are owed $47 million. All three senators voted this month to give their districts only a tiny fraction of that money. Fifty-eight percent of Foundation Aid is owed to Black and Brown students, and two-thirds is owed to economically disadvantaged students. But Senators Valesky, Griffo and Seward and their IDC and Republican colleagues voted to gut the Foundation Aid formula by eliminating student poverty, students with disabilities and minimized English language learners as key factors in how Foundation Aid is distributed. The impact would be to severely shortchange small cities and rural districts in Central New York. In addition, they voted to send millions to privately run charter schools, most of which are in New York City.

Schools statewide are owed $4.3 billion in Foundation aid, of which schools in Senator Valesky’s Senate District are owed $66 million, Senator Griffo’s District are owed $76 million, and Senator Seward’s District are owed $29 million. Utica schools are owed $47 million. All three senators voted this month to give their districts only a tiny fraction of that money. Fifty-eight percent of Foundation Aid is owed to Black and Brown students, and two-thirds is owed to economically disadvantaged students. But Senators Valesky, Griffo and Seward and their IDC and Republican colleagues voted to gut the Foundation Aid formula by eliminating student poverty, students with disabilities and minimized English language learners as key factors in how Foundation Aid is distributed. The impact would be to severely shortchange small cities and rural districts in Central New York. In addition, they voted to send millions to privately run charter schools, most of which are in New York City.

“Senators Griffo and Valesky both committed to fighting for the millions that schools in their districts are owed, but when the time came for them to stand up for their students with action, they went back on their word,” said Keith Rubino, board member of Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc.. “Our senators should do what is right for the parents and students in their district, and not just what their party tells them to do.”

“Senators Griffo and Valesky both committed to fighting for the millions that schools in their districts are owed, but when the time came for them to stand up for their students with action, they went back on their word,” said Keith Rubino, board member of Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc.. “Our senators should do what is right for the parents and students in their district, and not just what their party tells them to do.”

“The Senate and IDC budget proposals would leave behind children in the small cities and rural districts here in Central New York. Our local schools serve a large number of students living in poverty, students that are English language learners, and students with disabilities, but the Senate proposal disregards the needs of these students. We call on Senators Griffo, Valesky and Seward to stand up for all children and bring home the money owed to our schools,” said John Furman, board president of Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc.

“The Senate Republican and IDC’s vote last week to continue underfunding Central New York’s public schools and spend millions of dollars on New York City charter schools puts them in direct alignment with the Trump-DeVos agenda to undermine our public education system,” said Jasmine Gripper, Legislative Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “New York’s most vulnerable students are the ones that will pay the price for their inaction, with larger class sizes, reduced services for English language learners and a lack of the educational opportunities they deserve.”

Central New York parents and educators attended the press conference, as well as school board members, PTA/PTO members, Utica Teacher Association, Central New York Labor Council, Democratic Action Network, Cornhill Community for Change, Citizen Action of New York, Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc., and the Alliance for Quality Education.
The Foundation Aid formula is one of the most contentious issues in the state budget discussion this year. In January, Governor Cuomo proposed to repeal the formula entirely. By eliminating students in poverty, students with disabilities and minimizing English language learners as real factors in distributing school aid, the Senate IDC-Republican plan supported by Senators Valesky, Griffo and Seward can no longer be legitimately considered Foundation Aid as these are the very populations the formula is supposed to serve. The Assembly Majority by contrast voted to fully fund the formula with $1.4 billion this year and a four-year full phase-in of the remaining money owed to schools, maintaining its existing purposes and adding additional funding for districts with high poverty — including Utica and other Central New York districts.

The Foundation Aid formula was enacted in 2007 as a statewide settlement to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit in which the Court of Appeals, the State’s highest court, found that New York was violating students’ constitutional right to a “sound basic education.” Utica schools are owed $47 million according to data from the State Education Department.

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