In an attempt to receive what they believe to be their fair share of State Aid for Education, the Schenectady City School District, Board of Education of the SCSD, and Larry Spring, Superintendent, on behalf of the SCSD students are filing a complaint against the State of New York, the New York Legislature, the Governor of New York, the NY State Education Department, the NY State Board of Regents, and the NY State Commissioner of Education.
The suit claims that New York State has, “discriminated against the students of the Schenectady City School District on the basis of race and/or due to their being English Language Learners and or their having disabilities, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and/or the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 and/or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973”.
Details state that, “the educational funding structure implemented by New York State by and through Respondents has resulted in de facto discrimination which has compromised the Schenectady City School District’s ability to provide for the educational needs of minority based and non-English speaking students and students with disabilities. This discrimination is particularly acute when compared to the education funding provided to districts with a majority of Caucasian and mostly English speaking students.”
The suit is the latest salvo in a continuing effort by Spring to find funding for the district’s programs, services, and operating expenses. Since taking over as superintendent in 2012, Spring has aggressively addressed funding issues in the district. The 2013-2014 school year began operation with a projected $9 million budget gap despite Governor Cuomo allocating an additional $3million in aid. A projected gap of $16 million by some analysts is predicted by 2016.
The current school year budget deficit has resulted in unwelcome changes throughout the district. Class size have increased, some teaching positions have been cut or cut back, administrative staff has been shuffled to cover more responsibility with fewer people, and some supervisory and administrative positions have been combined or eliminated. Chairperson duties for many special education slots have become school centered instead of central office overseen.
Where Committee on Special Education chair people and other Central Office administrators used to run meetings and oversee service delivery options, school psychologists are now in charge in their school(s). Former district level administrators have returned to school centered positions in some cases. Support staff positions have also been shuffled in an effort to save money.
Over 85 teacher aide positions were eliminated, garnering complaints from parents who feel their children are not receiving the education assistance in the classroom and other support areas (particularly special education) that they need to succeed academically.
Plans to eliminate some primary level music classes and increase higher grade level options were dropped after parent complaints and review of research that indicates early music education helps children’s brains develop skills needed for reading, listening, following directions, organization, and metacognition.
Spring also has plans for reopening some closed schools, redistricting some areas, and realigning grade levels in many schools. Some of these predicted moves are also unpopular with parents who have already had their children shuffled from school to school. As an example, Kindergartens have moved from home schools to a central location and now back to some elementary schools. Reasons given are that the classrooms become open due to population shifts, special class needs, and teacher availability. Some parents have complained that their children have needed to switch schools almost yearly, disrupting academic continuity and social relationships.
Spring’s suit says that the funding disparity causes a discriminatory impact that is particularly acute in the Schenectady City School District. The suit alleges that the “discriminatory practices of implementing the education funding formula results in the District’s students receiving significantly less aid then their white counterparts in other school districts and insufficient funding levels to ensure that non-English-speaking students and students with disabilities overcome language barriers. This has directly and regularly impacted student
achievement. Under the (state’s) current education funding scheme, the more “white” a school district’s population, the more likely the district receives all, or close to all, of the aid it was promised under the constitutionally mandated state aid formula.”
Spring is holding a public meeting on Tuesday, November 5 at 5:30 p.m. at Central Park School to talk about this Civil Rights Complaint the district is filing with the U.S. Department of Justice and welcomes anyone who is interested to sign the complaint at that time.
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