Seeking racial and economic equity in education

Jan 9, 2018

Some Buffalo school parents, students and community members left for Albany early Tuesday morning to call on state leaders to fully fund public schools.  WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says they will join a rally with the Alliance for Quality Education as they call for racial and economic equity in education.

"That all children in New York State should be entitled to, and receive quality education, regardless of their background, their ethnicity or their zip code,” said Charlie Rodriguez, lead organizer with Citizen Action in Buffalo.

Students at the Makowski School in Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

Rodriguez will join about 50 local parents, students and community members who are headed to Albany to attend a large state-wide rally at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday calling for racial justice and equity in education. 

Rodriguez attended Buffalo Public Schools as well as her children.  She grew up in a single family in poverty household and doesn't believe much has changed since that time. She will join parents who are demanding 'real equity' – not just talk.

"Our children need to be able to go to school and feel safe and know that they are in an environment that is conducive to them learning, and I just don't feel like that is the case especially for minority children – you know black and brown children and children with special needs,” Rodriguez remarked.

"New York ranks one of the worst when it comes to equity,” declared Jasmine Gripper, legislative director at the Alliance for Quality Education. 

They will be demanding state lawmakers and the Governor invest in schools and begin paying out the $4.2-billion in Foundation Aid the state still owes from a lawsuit won by parents more than ten years ago.

“We saw two years where the state kept its promise and schools were funded and then the recession hit and the state choose to balance its budget on the backs of children,” said Gripper.

Governor Cuomo called for education equity in his State of the State speech, but the Alliance accuses Cuomo of failing to address “education racism.” 

Kindergarten class at West Hertel.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

“There's always an excuse why poor, black and brown children can't get the funding that our schools need and so we are not going to accept accuses from our state legislature. We are really holding our Governor accountable,” Gripper responded.  

The Alliance will be joined by Citizen Action of New York, Make the Road NY, New York Communities for Change, NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Metro Justice of Rochester at Tuesday's  Education Advocacy Day rally.

The Alliance said they will be demanding several major items during Tuesday's rally:

  • Culturally relevant education
  • Positive school climate
  • Increased teacher diversity
  • Sustainable Community Schools
  • Support for childcare and pre-K
  • A 5-year moratorium on new charter schools
  • A New York State DREAM Act
  • Adult education