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,” its 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 states that in the vast majority of New York City 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 supportive climate for learning. It found, for example, that virtually none of the 34 schools covered by the report were providing their students the full range of academic intervention services required by state regulations, and a number of high schools students lacked access to basic science courses in chemistry and physics and to Advanced Placement courses.