Here is a superintendent who is willing to raise his voice to demand that the Governor and Legislature fund New York state’s public schools. These days, there is so much fear in education, so many educators intimidated by get-tough, know-nothing politicians, that it is refreshing to encounter a superintendent who is willing to speak truth to power.
Superintendent Jeff Rabey wonders why citizens are willing to demonstrate for gun rights but not for their children’s schools. He writes:
Is it just me or do we have our priorities mixed up?
In response to the NY SAFE Act, “Angry demonstrators, at least 1,000 of them traveling from Erie County on 14 packed buses, showed their frustrations in colorful signs such as ‘Cuomo has to go’..” (Buffalo News 03/01/13)
Gun advocates rage against the trampling of their Second Amendment rights. Why don’t we rage at the profound trampling of our children’s Constitutional rights?
NYS’s Constitution guarantees children a fair and equitable education. Yet, for five years NYS has underfunded schools by $765 million. In 2009, when the courts ordered more equitable school funding, Foundation Aid was created to provide at least a 3% aid increase each year. Just one year later, Foundation Aid was frozen and the five-year “take back” of aid began. That “take back,” known as the “Gap Elimination” is decimating our public schools. Where are these 14 packed buses on their way to Albany?
Pounding another nail in the coffin, Albany passed the Tax Levy Cap, which further defunded schools and swept away school board control over local revenue. Heralded as a help to taxpayers facing soaring local property taxes, Albany looked heroic. Albany neglected to mention that local property taxes were soaring because local taxpayers picked up the tab for funding Albany took away … and for mandated expenses Albany won’t address.
The “Gap Elimination” take-back and tax levy cap have fast tracked schools to financial and educational ruin. Schools are cutting programs left and right to save costs. Our children’s transcripts will be too thin for entrance to our own NYS four-year schools. Where are these 14 packed buses on their way to Albany?
Finally, in an effort to grab $700 million in federal Race to the Top funds, Albany committed to transforming our educational system into one that promotes high stakes testing and linked those high stakes, unreliable assessments to teacher performance.
Albany swept away school board control over evaluation of their own teachers. Instead, that authority was given to a time-consuming, unproven system that dramatically escalates expenses for schools, pushing costs far beyond the initial Race to the Top funding. This at a time when Albany took away funding that was Constitutionally-guaranteed. Where are these 14 packed buses on their way to Albany?
Where is the outrage? The colorful signs? The microphones and cameras?
We need to take a lesson from the gun advocates and raise our voices in united outrage. Recently, in a letter sent to the Governor, which was initiated by Senator Gallivan and signed by 17 of his Upstate fellow Senators; the inequitable funding of schools was addressed. The letter urges the Governor to restore funding to low-wealth school districts that have been disproportionately impacted.
This is a start, but where are these 14 packed buses from Western New York on their way to Albany?
Jeffrey R. Rabey
Superintendent of Schools
Depew Union Free School District