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Community citizens urge state to increase public school funds

Ashley Hirtzel

Parents, citizens and local officials gathered in Buffalo Wednesday to demand that New York State provide more funding for public schools. The #WeCantWait social media campaign urges the state to comply with court ordered funding through the Campaign for Fiscal Equality.

Representatives from the Alliance for Quality Education, PUSH Buffalo and Citizen Action were among the group calling on New York State to provide the funding owed to area schools. 6th Grade Teacher at School 53, Phyllis Williams says schools are hurting due to the lack of funding.

“As of right now I have 35 kids in my classroom with 36 on the rooster. So, were waiting for this one student to show up. It’s troubling because they’re expecting us to meet all of these challenges with these students, but do not give us the materials to do so. I’m short text books. We’ve been short text books in this school for a while. We don’t have enough reading materials to service all of these kids and that’s just a crime within itself,” said Williams.

Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO
6th Grade Teacher at School #53, Phyllis Williams

According to data released by the Alliance for Quality Education, the New York State Education Department owes schools across the state $5.9 billion in classroom operating aid. The data reveals that the Buffalo Public Schools are owed more than $139 million.

Buffalo School Board member Sharon Belton Cottman says she believes the state is using an iron fist when it comes to providing funding in the city.

“The previous administration tried to correct some of those things by having a better rate of success with the state. However, the state when it comes to Buffalo, it’s been clear that politics are very deep in the city of Buffalo and that they’re moving to try and privatize our district,” said Belton-Cottman.

Belton-Cottman says additional funding is crucial to ensure that every student is afforded the opportunity for a high quality education.

Senator Tim Kennedy says students have been shortchanged.

“The message is clear that New York State under funding education needs to end. For the past several years our schools have been saddled with what some Albany insiders dubbed the ‘gap elimination adjustment.’ It’s a fancy name for a bad idea. What it does is balances the state budget by siphoning of funds from public education, from our children’s schools. It’s unacceptable and this has to be stopped,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy says he believes the additional funds would help make children across western New York more college and career ready.