Watervliet students, teachers and administrators urge education equity
Feb. 29, 2012
Students, teachers and administrators
represented the Watervliet City School District Wednesday, Feb. 29, as
hundreds from around the state gathered in Albany calling for the
equitable distribution of education aid.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lori S. Caplan was among the more than 20 guest speakers that addressed the crowd of approximately 800 who attended the Rural and Small City Schools Forum at The Egg.
Organizers of the event, including the Alliance for Quality Education, the New York State Association of Small City School District and the New York State United Teachers, called for the prioritizing of classroom aid to high-needs districts like Watervliet.
“A lack of fair and equitable distribution of state funding only increases the gap between wealthier or average needs districts and low income and rural schools—those that rely most on it. There is no justification for holding or cutting funds to schools that are already ‘in need.’ This will only perpetuate the ever growing achievement gap between the schools that ‘have’ and the schools that ‘have not’,” Dr. Caplan said in her speech. “It saddens me that students in needier districts may not be afforded the same educational opportunities that students from more affluent districts have. It is difficult to imagine that next year and in the years to follow, it may no longer be feasible for us to offer accelerated or college level courses for students because we do not have adequate funding.”
Several lawmakers spoke at the event supporting increased funding for rural and small city school districts.
“While we are facing tough economic times, it is critical that we remember that a long term solution to our economic problems is an investment in quality education for all students. For too long we have let our rural and small city schools carry an unfair burden,” state Sen. Neil Breslin said. “If we truly want to ensure all students receive a proper education, we must redirect the competitive grant funding to school aid. We must allow the principles of fairness and equality to guide us in our school funding formulas.”
In his executive budget proposal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposes $250 million in grant funding to be awarded competitively among districts instead of being awarded to the state’s most needy schools.
In addition to calling for the $250 million in grant funding to be redirected to school aid, attendees at the event also called for the restoration of the $1.3 billion in State Education Aid that was cut from schools last year and for lawmakers to prioritize schools that have the most need to ensure rural and small cities are fairly treated.
“Earlier this week Forbes Magazine ranked the Albany/Schenectady region as the fourth best area in the nation for jobs. Citing developments at GE’s Global Research Center and the company’s new battery facility as well as with GlobalFoundries’ new chip-fabrication plant in Malta, the magazine said that ‘Albany is on a roll’,” Dr. Caplan said. “As we struggle for funding and prepare to cut programs we have to ask: Will our schools be able to prepare students for careers in our new economy?”
Thanks to funding provided by forum organizers, more than 20 Watervliet students attended the event together with teachers Scott Emerson, Peter Strand and teaching assistant Jeffery DiPaola. After the rally at The Egg, the Watervliet students visited the state Assembly where they were recognized by Assemblyman Ron Canestrari.
“It was a terrific day, we got our message
out, and our students got to experience things that few people have the
opportunity to do,” Mr. Emerson said. “Dr. Caplan's remarks were
outstanding, and right on the mark with the issues that we face moving
Other Capital Region districts represented at the event included Cohoes, Schenectady, Schoharie, Broadalbin-Perth and more.