Groups Intensify Pressure on Albany for CFE Solution
With the 2006 legislative session underway and a severely inadequate education budget from Governor Pataki before legislators, New York City's education advocates and key lawmakers have stepped up the pressure on Albany to hash out a solution to the CFE case. The unusually aggressive stance by Mayor Bloomberg and the creation of an independent statewide political action committee are highlights of the renewed strength behind advocates' efforts to secure an immediate school-funding solution.
CFE lauds these efforts in New York City and across the state to ensure all New York's children the educational opportunity to which they are entitled under the state constitution. What follows is a sampling of some of these new and urgent calls to action:
Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference in mid-February strongly urging state lawmakers to immediately deliver the additional stream of school construction dollars owed to New York City under the CFE lawsuit. "Unless the State meets its obligation, 15,000 classroom seats, new schools, libraries, labs, and gyms will be postponed," the mayor cautioned. Bloomberg has continued to vigorously press the issue and is urging the community to get directly involved in the fight for fair funding. Aides to the mayor have also said that he would likely support democrats running for the state senate if the legislature did not meet the city's school-funding needs.
New York EdPAC, formally announced on February 21, is a new political action committee of the League of Education Voters of America, a national issue advocacy organization dedicated to engaging voters in the fight for fair funding for public schools. EdPAC has said they are on course to raise and spend $3 million to target legislators across the state who are refusing to adequately fund New York's public schools. "We expect to strongly support pro-education challengers as well as oppose obstructionist incumbents through aggressive paid media, field organizing, and direct political contributions," said EdPAC's Valerie Berlin.
The group maintains that with Governor Pataki at the end of his tenure and the assembly already committed to a school-funding solution after introducing the Schools for New York's Future Act last year, the senate is the only remaining obstacle in achieving a CFE remedy. EdPAC has already identified 13 state senators they will try to unseat if the senators continue to defy the CFE court mandate.
Elizabeth Sullivan, the executive director of the League of Education Voters, has also sent a warning to members of the assembly majority: "NY EdPAC is a nonpartisan organization with one goal: improving public education across New York. In the current climate the Senate Republican majority stands in the way of a real solution to adequately fund public schools, but we will continue to monitor the efforts of the Assembly and of individual legislators in both parties to pass the Schools for New York's Future Act and are fully prepared to oppose Democrats and support Republicans on this issue."
The Alliance for Quality Education (AQE)
In the fall of 2005, the Alliance for Quality Education launched a major statewide campaign to fight for passage of school-funding legislation in the 2006 legislative session. The organization is building local organizing committees in districts that stand to benefit from the bill's passage but are represented by senators who have shown little willingness to push for a CFE solution. AQE is also organizing an education advocacy lobby day on March 12 that will bring busloads of advocates, parents, teachers, students, and other concerned individuals from New York City and across the state to Albany to urge lawmakers to meet the needs of schoolchildren. To get involved and send letters to your legislators, please visit the Alliance for Quality Education's website at www.ourkidscantwait.org.
New York City Council
At a February 13 press conference, members of the city council strongly urged Governor Pataki to address the debilitating overcrowding and crumbling facilities in the city's schools. Led by Education Chairman Robert Jackson, the city council also launched a new project, www.fundourschools.org, which allows New Yorkers to find out how capital budget funds affect new projects in their neighborhood. In an uncommon move, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Chairman Jackson also joined forces with Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Joel Klein, and UFT President Randi Weingarten in making these urgent pleas.
New York State Educational Conference Board (ECB)
In January 2006, ECB, comprised of the eight major statewide education organizations, called on Governor Pataki and the legislature to enact a solution to the CFE case in this year's state budget. "Enacting comprehensive statewide school finance reform would help lessen the local taxpayers' burden while assuring that all children get what the state constitution promises -- the opportunity for a sound, basic education. The leaders would be simply fulfilling their duty under the law," said ECB Chairman Edward L. McCormick.
ECB also released its annual estimate of baseline education funding necessary to maintain current services and programs for schools across New York State. Using conservative estimates, ECB found that to simply maintain current programs will cost schools an additional $2.153 billion next year. Compare this figure with Governor Pataki's proposed education budget increase of $259 million in traditional state aid, a fraction of the billions needed merely to protect districts from considerable rising costs and inflationary expenses.
February 27, 2006