March 24, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan
A group of Jackson Heights parents are planning to march to State Senator Jose Peralta’s office tomorrow to demand that the State Budget include more funding for education.
Several local parents are planning a march from P.S. 69 at 77-02 37th Avenue to Peralta’s office at 32-37 Junction Boulevard tomorrow at noon to demand that the state budget include funds that are owed to schools following a 2006 court case.
Honor Mosher, a Jackson Heights parent, said that the group is marching in response to the recent budget introduced by the Independent Democratic Caucus, a Senate splinter group that Peralta joined last year that often works with Republicans.
She argued that the budget released by the IDC was almost identical to the Republican budget proposal, and that it did does not adequately address the court ruling in a case from 2006 that ruled that schools in low income and minority districts had been underfunded.
“We’re all watching him now that he left the Democrats, and the IDC budget was exactly the same as GOP budget, which means that the education section is exactly what the GOP wants,” Mosher said.
“Educational resources are seriously lacking, there aren’t even textbooks in the classrooms. We need help, we need him to be a Democrat, and he’s not listening to constituents. This is not a time for Democrats to be folding,” she added.
The Campaign for Fiscal Equality Inc. v. State of New York ruling essentially found that the state funding system for public schools was unconstitutional because it did not offer all children the opportunity for a “sound basic education.”
It resulted in a ruling that required the state to pay out $5.6 billion in “Foundation Aid,” which would be distributed based on a formula that offers resources to the highest-need students in the lowest-performing schools.
As of this year, the state still owes $4.3 billion, and the proposed IDC budget in the state senate does not allocate enough for foundation aid and looks to change the formula and redistribute the owed money to less needy schools, Mosher said.
The budget on the table from the IDC proposes to give out just over $906 million in foundation aid in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
The Democratic proposal, which did not make it to the floor, would have phased in $2.1 billion in Foundation Aid over the next three years.
“He think’s he’s going to snow us, but we’re looking at reports and budgets and we’re reading,” Mosher said of Peralta. “I didn’t pay attention before but I am now,” she said.
Peralta vehemently rebutted Mosher’s accusations, and blamed the Democratic Party for a smear campaign against the IDC.
“A few weeks ago, the mainline Democrats engaged in a outrageous public relations stunt designed to spread misinformation and confuse the people who care most about this issue,” Peralta said in a statement, saying that it is “repugnant and offensive” for anyone to say he voted against Campaign for Fiscal Equality funding when the budget has not yet been voted on.
“I have supported the Campaign for Fiscal Equity throughout my legislative career,” Peralta added. “I support $1.4 billion for Foundation Aid with a phase-in in this year’s budget. I have always fought for building more schools to add more seats and eliminate decades-old classroom trailers that are not conducive to a real learning environment for our children. I pushed hard to obtain a record-setting amount of bond money to help our local schools.”
Peralta added that under his leadership, his district has added nine schools with 4,693 seats and there are four more schools with 2,871 seats in development.
Mosher said that she hopes to see about 40 people at the protest, and that she hopes it inspires local parents in nearby neighborhoods to get more involved as well.
“I would love for Peralta to see this and to take a stand,” Mosher said. “It’s times like these that good moral people stand up and do the right thing. We just want him to do the job we elected him to do.”
The Senate will vote on the 2017 to 2018 budget on April 1.