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N.Y. Conferences Seek to "Safeguard Sound Basic Education in Hard Economic Times"

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Published: 3/26/2012 4:00:00 PM

Seeking to better define and secure the essential resources, supports, and services students need, even in times of fiscal constraint, the Campaign for Education Equity, Teachers College, Columbia University, convened two important conferences in Albany and New York City earlier this month.  At these events, the group released “Reviewing Resources,” a preliminary report on the availability of basic educational resources in high-needs New York City schools.

Although the decisions of New York’s highest court in Campaign for Educational Equity (CFE) v. State of New York had led the legislature to enact funding reforms that promised high need districts throughout the state substantial funding increases, the governor and the legislature have reneged on these commitments. This year’s state aid budget cut over $2 billion in education funding. The Campaign’s conferences convened educators, parents, advocates, school officials, public officials, CBOs, and others to consider the impact on students’ constitutional right to the opportunity for a sound basic education and to deliberate on specific requirements that the state—or possibly the court—should adopt to ensure the availability of sufficient resources, even in hard economic times.

The conference participants largely agreed that defining the programmatic and resource requirements needed to provide all students a meaningful opportunity to a sound basic education is “frustrating and difficult,” but that it is an essential step for ensuring that all students obtain the skills and knowledge to become capable citizens and competitive workers in the global economy. The Campaign intends to release a summary of the specific positions and ideas articulated by the conference shortly.

The “Reviewing Resources” report discusses preliminary findings based on informational interviews in 34 high-needs New York City schools (and includes in-depth interviews in four pilot schools). In the vast majority of these schools, principals and teachers who were interviewed reported substantial gaps in their ability to provide (1) a suitable curriculum for all students; (2) an expanded platform of services for at risk students; (3) resources for improving teacher quality; and (4) a safe, orderly environment that provides a supportive climate for learning. Virtually none of the 34 schools reported, for example, that they were able to provide all of their eligible students with the full range of academic intervention services required by state regulations, and a number of high schools reported that they unable to provide students with basic courses in chemistry and physics or with advanced courses in many subjects.