UTICA, N.Y., Feb. 18 -- The Alliance for Quality Education issued the following news release:
The Governor's proposed education budget of $608 million increase falls significantly short of the $1.9 billion legislators and advocates have been calling for this year. If the Governor's budget is enacted, education-funding levels will still fall below the funding levels of 2009. With Utica Schools only having received 23 percent of aid promised under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, and the Utica City School District already anticipating to cut 94 teaching positions, it is clear this budget continues a trend of ignoring the funding crisis in high need schools, like Utica CSD.
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, the Alliance for Quality Education, parents, students, teachers, and community members held a rally to demand elected officials take action to address the funding needs of Utica schools.
"The population of the Utica School District is steadily increasing, while state funding is decreasing," said Trinh Truong, junior at Thomas R. Proctor High School in Utica. "There are students that literally have to stand in class because there aren't any desks. Are they trying to set us up for failure?"
The City of Utica has a large refugee community that continues to grow. With 1,550 ESL students in the district and up to 33 students in a classroom, Utica CSD is struggling to meet the needs of its diverse and growing student population.
"The Utica School District has done an admirable job educating students, considering the fiscal tidal wave it faces. In fact recently, it was cited in a survey as having one of the most efficient administrations of any school district in the state. But if Utica received its fair share of funding, it would not be dealing with continuing operating deficits, high class sizes, and a reduction in its teaching staff. There are some bright spots on the economic horizon in the Utica area, but for our area to move forward, the Utica City School District needs adequate resources to give its students the education they need to succeed in the 21st Century," said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica.
"Students in Utica are some of the most shortchanged in the state," said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. "The Governor keeps saying that money does not matter in education, but when students in Utica have to sell coupon books to purchase chemicals for high school science experiments, it is crystal clear that money matters. No longer can we tolerate two public school systems in New York: one for the wealthy and one for high need communities like Utica."
Currently, New York is ranked fifth in the nation in inequity of educational opportunities. With an $8,601 spending gap between rich and poor school districts, there is a wide disparity in the educational opportunities across the state. The Utica City School District spends $5,325 less per student than the state average. Utica also has a poverty rate of 43.86 percent. By increasing school aid to $1.9 billion, not only will this put New York back on track with its commitment to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court order, it will allow school districts, such as Utica, to provide a quality education to its students.
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