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STUDY CALLS FOR ADDITIONAL $7 BILLION FOR “SOUND BASIC EDUCATION” FOR NEW YORK SCHOOLCHILDREN

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"Delivering the promise of a sound, basic education has always been the key to securing our children's future and now we know what it will cost," said Michael A. Rebell, CFE's executive director and counsel.

Providing the opportunity for a “sound basic education” to every student in New York will require an additional $6.21 billion, according to preliminary findings from a new costing-out study released last week. The study, conducted by the American Institutes for Research and Management Analysis and Planning, Inc., also recommended small class sizes, universal pre-kindergarten, and additional resources for English-language learners, students with disabilities, and low-income students.

The New York Adequacy Study, released by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), was a central requirement of the New York Court of Appeals ruling that threw out the state’s school-funding formula last year. The court ruled that the state had failed to ensure that students in New York City schools had the chance for a sound, basic education as guaranteed by the state constitution. New York Governor George E. Pataki (R) and the state legislature were ordered to fix the system by July 30, 2004.

“Delivering the promise of a sound, basic education has always been the key to securing our children’s future and now we know what it will cost,” said Michael A. Rebell, CFE’s executive director and counsel. “This study determines the actual costs of meeting children’s educational needs as required by the court. We invite the governor and legislature to put aside partisan politics and take this opportunity to work with us to ensure that a sound basic education is actually made available to every student in the state.”

The research team that produced the report was charged with answering the question: “What is the incremental cost of extending to all New York’s public school students an opportunity to acquire knowledge specified by Regents Learning Standards?” Over fifteen months, researchers “sought counsel from professional educators and held conversations with representatives of taxpayers, school board members, parents, legislators, and other interested constituencies.”

According to the New York Times, it is still unclear whether the New York Court of Appeals will back the report’s findings, or “even equate a basic education with a Regents diploma.” However, the article did suggest that the report will function as a starting point for a lively debate in the state legislature over how New York, already facing a $5.1 billion deficit, can meet the court order. The chairman of Governor Pataki’s Commission of Educational Reform, Frank G. Zarb, has said that the legislature should take the report seriously. In addition, some of the governor’s own witnesses in the lawsuit helped to conduct the study.

Rebell has called for the funding shortfall to be phased in over the next three to four years and reiterated CFE’s call for a $2 billion “down payment” in the state’s budget this year, an amount far greater than the $147 million increase the governor proposed. For his part, Pataki has proposed to fix New York City schools with profits from video lottery terminals. According to Pataki, the lottery machines, once operational, are expected to generate at least $2 billion a year.

This preliminary report of the New York Adequacy Study research team is available on the CFE Web site at http://www.cfequity.org/. A final, more extensive report will be released in March.

The complete New York Times article is available at http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/05/education/05school.html.

D.C. High School Students Face Great Challenges, but Some Find Hope in the UnseenOver the past year, Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., has been in the news for all the wrong reasons: fights in the halls; a temporary closing as the result of mercury stolen from a science classroom and spread around the school; and, last week, a seventeen-year-old star football player shot and killed outside the school cafeteria.

But there is another side to Ballou and its students which serves as an inspiration and example of what students in this high-poverty, urban school-and others like them-can accomplish. In Hope in the Unseen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind tells the story of Cedric Jennings, a Ballou honor student who, after graduating at the top of his class, went on to Brown University. Cedric’s high school struggle to overcome the challenges facing a ghetto youth bent on academic achievement-including the inner-city code of youthful male behavior and a community environment that was less than supportive of his aspirations-is a must read for educators and others looking at increasing graduation rates.

The drive to succeed should not be underestimated as we work to improve our high schools. Other students at Ballou share Cedric’s goals, including one who, following the shooting, told the Washington Post, “I can’t be concerned about everything. I’ve got to go to school and do my work and graduate.” They deserve our support.

More detailed reviews of Hope in the Unseen are available at
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0767901266/103-5605984-4183847?v=glance

 

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