Opinion: Let’s Fully Fund Public Schools Now

Opinion: Let’s Fully Fund Public Schools Now
PS 6 in Flatbush. Liena Zagare/Bklyner

By Tracy Jordan, a parent, education advocate, and Flatbush resident.

The pandemic has exposed and increased the inequities that exist in our public school system, now we are surely in a crisis.  At this moment, we have the opportunity to rectify this crisis by passing the Invest in Our New York Legislation.  Each of the six bills would raise billions of dollars, which would provide a sustainable source to fully fund schools.

The key to equity in our schools is to provide funding that will support the types of programs to allow each child to have the same quality education.  In pursuit of such a vital goal, we not only need our legislators to sign onto the bills, we need them to be included in the state budget.

The reality is that New York has enough money to support the recovery from this economic crisis, which would provide a better future for all New Yorkers.  It is time to correct the decades of underfunding and cuts to education.  New York has the unique resource of the ultra-rich, whose incomes have increased exponentially during the pandemic, the same cannot be said for the middle and lower-income workers.  Our New York State legislators can make a difference for public schools by fully funding them by progressively taxing the ultra-rich.

We currently have a regressive tax system in which the wealthiest New Yorkers pay the least amount of taxes leaving the tax burden on those who cannot afford it.  In some cases, taxes for the top earners would only increase 2%.  Implementing this legislation simply makes sense.  However, some may argue that this will cause the wealthy to flee New York but there is no such evidence.  It is a myth that top earners will flee based on this small adjustment to taxes because many have connections to New York that make it challenging to just get up and leave the state, such as their job, home, and children in school.

In addition to taxing the ultra-rich at the appropriate rate, the governor needs to stop cutting education funding out of the budget.

In April 2020, Governor Cuomo cut the school aid budget by $1.1 billion dollars for FY 2021, which will disproportionately affect Black, Brown, immigrant, and low-income students.  It further undermines the positive impact the CARES Act would have made, so instead of NY schools having the 1.1 billion from the state budget and receiving aid from the federal government, there will still be a large gap in support.  Furthermore, the federal aid will dry up, New York requires a sustainable source of funding for one of the largest school systems in the nation. We need internet access for all, school buildings updated to a standard that would allow children to return to school safely in the fall, additional adequately prepared teachers and counselors, and fully equipped afterschool programs that are not an afterthought.  That is just a glimpse of the needs of the current school system, there is a lot more needed to provide a sound basic education as our state constitution promises.

There are several reasons to pass Invest in Our New York legislation.  Fundamentally, it is a moral, decent, compelling cause and one of the most important ways to invest in our children and their future.  We hope our local legislative leaders, such as Kings County Democratic Party Leader Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn and the fifth ranking Democrat and Majority Whip Senator Kevin Parker who have already noted their support for the Invest in New York legislation will fight for the legislation and shed light on how crucial they are for the state’s recovery.  Let’s finally Invest in New York! Support education and vote yes!

Tracy Jordan is a parent, education advocate, and Flatbush resident.