By Michael Quinniey and Brian Trzeciak
Public education is under attack and our children are suffering. In recent years, Buffalo schools have lost 140 teaching positions and made cuts to after-school programs. Statewide, class sizes have spiked, summer school has been cut back and arts, music, college-level courses, libraries and tutoring have all faced cuts.
The funding is particularly urgent given the fact that in Buffalo, parents and the school district are collaborating to improve school climate and stop excessive suspensions. Buffalo’s students simply cannot afford more cuts, but that is what will happen unless the Legislature adds more school aid to the governor’s proposed budget.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has made reducing and limiting education spending one of his top priorities since entering office, but our schoolchildren are suffering the consequences. New York ranks No. 5 in the nation for having the biggest opportunity gap between rich and poor school districts.
A recent report by the Alliance for Quality Education documents that the rich school districts spend an average of $8,601 more per pupil than poor ones in New York. This gap has widened since Cuomo took office, and the policies of Albany are the source of the problem.
The wealthiest schools in the state have incredibly rich curriculums with college-level courses ranging from Chinese to civil engineering, intensive guidance counseling, numerous sports teams and dozens of performing arts electives. Money works well in providing high-quality educational opportunities in wealthy downstate suburbs. Why should Buffalo students deserve less?
That is why parents and students from Buffalo went to Albany last week. More than 1,000 New Yorkers paraded around the capitol to demand that the Legislature add $350 million to the budget to prevent more classroom cuts.
The vast majority of New Yorkers support more school funding and greater equity in opportunity, yet, Hannya Boulos, the director of Buffalo ReformEd, had a recent column in The Buffalo News attacking the Alliance for Quality Education’s report highlighting inequity. In the column, she opposed more funding for Buffalo schools. She labeled our fight a “tired call for more money.” It is disappointing that her organization is opposed to providing services and programs that our children need to be successful in life.
Fortunately, Buffalo’s legislators, including Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Sen. Tim Kennedy, support adding $350 million in school aid. Parents should call the governor to ask him to invest more in our children’s future. We, the people of Buffalo, believe that our children deserve that.
Michael Quinniey is the parent of an East High School student. Brian Trzeciak is lead organizer of Citizen Action of New York and the Alliance for Quality Education.