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Parents Protest to Increase Public School Funding

Chris Hippensteel

Parents, school officials and community leaders from Syracuse and Utica called upon the state to increase funding to public schools Tuesday. They aim to hold the state accountable for the implementation of its Foundation Aid formula, a school funding formula which would distribute school funds more equally to schools in low-income areas.

The state has yet to provide the $4 billion it owes under the formula, and account for a $10,000 spending gap between students in rich and poor school districts. Yusuf Abdul-Qadir is the director of the Central New York Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. He says that the state is legally responsible for implementing the formula.

"The courts have decided that the funding formula is inadequate. The state is not fulfilling its constitutional requirement to provide sound, basic education... Not a sound pheneomenal, not a sound stellar, not excellent, but a basic education is what we're talking about."

The State Senate held a roundtable to evaluate the Foundation Aid Formula. According to Kristina Andreotta, the Regional Director for Citizen Action of New York, that roundtable wasn’t addressing the correct issue.

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
The State's funding formula, which allocates extra money for low-income schools, was recently implemented. Now, some are requesting that the formula be amended, even though its funding goals were not met this year.

"We're having the wrong coversation. They're having this coversation to say 'How can we fix the formula' when at the end of the day, we don't even know if the formula works or not because they have yet to actually, adequately fund the formula."

Andreotta and her colleagues say that the state owes schools in Syracuse more than $45 million under the Foundation Aid Formula. Twiggy Billue, president of the Syracuse Chapter of the National Action Network, believes that money could help fix the problems Syracuse schools are facing right now, such as a lack of guidance counselors, providing health services, and supporting English Language Learners.

"If you look right here in Syracuse we're dealing with failing schools, we're dealing with some problems that our funds go well beyond. If we were funded adequately, we could address some of those problems on the ground, right now."

The state legislature has a chance to fully fund the Foundation Aid Formula as part of the state budget early next year.