BAY RIDGE – As a resident of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and an Education District 20 public school parent, I feel fortunate to have my child enrolled in one of the best school districts in New York City. My son has flourished under the care of impeccably trained teachers and a compassionate and diverse school community. I am gratified to know that my daughter will benefit from these same resources when she commences Universal Pre-Kindergarten next year. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Like many public school parents in our district, however, I also regularly witness and hear examples of the chronic overcrowding and underfunding of our schools. Indeed, we have all heard cases of teachers being forced to purchase their own supplies, the diminishment of enrichment programs for lack of funding and available space, and struggles to meet student needs with appropriate staff. I assumed these things to be the way of life in New York because of our density, so I was shocked when I learned the outcome of a lawsuit called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) v. State of New York.
The history of this lawsuit stretches all the way back to 1993, but the result is what’s important here. The New York State Court of Appeals, our state’s highest court, ruled that our state constitution enshrines the right to a “sound basic education” and concurred with the CFE that New York was failing to provide it. Later rulings detailed the billions of dollars owed to the City of New York, yet only a portion of those funds have ever made it to our schools. According to the terms of the suit as laid out by the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), Senate District 22’s forty-plus schools are owed more than $62.5 million. The jam-packed PS 102 alone is due to receive more than $2.1 million. Fort Hamilton: $6.5 million.
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So where is this money? Locked up in the State Legislature, which has failed to properly fund our schools based on the suit’s outcome. Above, I mentioned Senate District 22 for a reason. That reason is our State Senator Marty Golden who holds a crucial vote on matters which directly impact our neighborhoods – from public education to public transportation, from rent control to gun control.
I want to know why Sen. Golden sponsored a bill providing massive tax breaks to Manhattan luxury developers to the tune of $44 million instead of advocating for our public schools. I want to know why he voted to eliminate statewide caps and unfreeze per pupil tuition on charter schools. I want to know why he continues to be an outspoken defender of charters despite their competition for funding with “regular” public schools and the fact that there is virtually no charter presence in our district. These votes and actions fly in the face of providing the best to our district’s public schools. They fail not only our students, but also the many teachers who live here.
I encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about funds owed to their local schools to visit http://www.whatismyschoolowed.com/. If that doesn’t take your breath away, I don’t know what will. After you’ve recovered from the shock, consider why our elected representatives are failing our kids and maybe make a phone call to Sen. Golden’s office to ask the hard questions.
Courtney Scott, Bay Ridge resident & public school parent
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