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New York State is among the states that spend the most per pupil on education, but it ranks among the lowest five states in the nation in spending equity between the richest and poorest districts, according to a 2015 report by Education Week. At the same time, a 2015 UCLA Civil Rights Project report found New York to be the most racially segregated school system in the country.
In New York City schools, inequity is on display every day. In many of the 600-plus new small schools created under former Mayor Bloomberg, students lack libraries, labs, art and music rooms, gyms or even rooms for any support services. In many parts of the city, especially poor neighborhoods, children attend schools without adequate supplies, textbooks or facilities. A July 2015 report by the Center for New York City Affairs showed that 39 percent of New York City high schools do not offer a standard college-prep curriculum in math and science. More than half the schools do not offer a single Advanced Placement course in math.
The UFT has put educational equity front and center in its advocacy work. The union has formed partnerships with other groups, joined lawsuits, lobbied legislators and mounted campaigns to call for funding equity, even as Governor Cuomo has pressured the state Legislature for more punitive, test-based “reform.”
Educational equity does not mean everyone will have identical outcomes or identical resources, but it does mean every student has a fair shot at success. Equity means that access to education is not unfairly blocked for some children by funding shortages, overcrowded classrooms, a lack of available academic classes or limited enrichment opportunities.
The Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit ended in 2006 with the state’s highest court ordering billions of dollars in increased funding for New York City and other high-needs districts. New York State has still not complied with the ruling.
New York City schools are owed $2 billion in state funding. That leaves urban, high-needs students at a severe disadvantage to wealthy suburban districts, private schools and charters with lavish hedge-fund donors.
New York City schools — a source of advancement and hope for so many poor and immigrant families — must get their fair share of education resources. Every school should have the resources that will put students on track for college and career success.
Equity is not a handout. It is every child’s right.
Resolutions, Testimony, and Reports
- Resolution to oppose the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education
- Resolution supporting California teachers unions' defense of due process and seniority rights
- Resolution in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board Supreme Court ruling
- Testimony on Governor Cuomo's FY 2014-2015 executive budget proposal
- Reforming Mayoral Control: March 2013