Buffalo Public Schools supporters off to Albany, saying they're owed $100M

Mar 3, 2020

The annual rush to the state budget is heating up, with the deadline four weeks away. That sent Buffalo schools supporters on the bus to the capital early Tuesday.

Before sunrise, the group had its bus on the road toward Albany. It is another year of marches on the state capital that dominate the budget process, along with rallies on the great steps and office-by-office visits to state legislators looking for cash.

Again this year, one of the big issues is the fight over foundation aid. That is the base state school aid grant promised to school districts just before the economy and tax collections collapsed in the Great Recession. School supporters say Buffalo is still owed $100 million from cuts back then.

Education activist Ina Ferguson said every school could use help, even the district's best, City Honors.

"Continue the great place that it is to have working, you could still give more funding and more support to the teachers, have more teacher's aides in the building to help support the teachers with education," Ferguson said. "But, also, I'm in after school programming at School 17. They have young babies from pre-K to 4th grade. So I'm on both sides of the spectrum."

Ferguson and others said the money is particularly needed to make sure minority kids get the special help they need, whether in pre-K, elementary or high school.

"They need more teacher's aides in the building. They need more funding of things, of programs that work for the children, especially on literacy and computer skills because we are in a technology age era," she said. "Money is owed to us and this is from the foundation aid. It costs money to educate the children."

Across New York State, billions of dollars are tangled up in this fight over foundation aid, cut more than a decade ago. They want the money appropriated by raising taxes on the state's millionaires and billionaires. There has been some money from those years built into school aid.

New York State United Teachers says the state owes 400 districts more than $3.4 billion.