Central New York
AMOUNTS OWED IN FOUNDATION AID:
Syracuse: $48.7 million
Auburn: $6.4 million
Seven hundred forty-three students call Franklin Elementary home every weekday in Syracuse. They start each day facing a big mirror that says, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, there’s a champion in us all.”
Even champions need help.
Some of the children shine with optimism and giggles; many carry heavy loads of poverty, trauma and mental illness.
ENL teacher Kerry Read, a member of the Syracuse Teachers Association, says she starts each day with a wish: “I wish they had a good night. I wish that they’ve had breakfast.”
She can wish, but many don’t have those things. Some kids in this snow-belt school don’t have warm coats.
“There is generational poverty and mental health issues that have gone undiagnosed and untreated. We are trying to break that cycle, but we can’t meet the needs.”
Teachers and other staff have to deal with students’ social-emotional needs before they can address education, Read said, but the school only has two social workers.
They need more social workers, more academic interventionists and more teachers to reduce class sizes. One kindergarten class has 30 kids. More and more students have special education needs, as well.
Funding the budget is harder every year, and Syracuse is still waiting for $48.7 million it is owed in Foundation Aid.
"Attendance is everything. They can’t learn if they’re not here. We need more funding to expand our transportation options for students so they can get here, so they can learn."
“There’s no escaping the impact funding has,” said Jaime Alicea, superintendent, speaking to state lawmakers during a legislative breakfast that was part of NYSUT’s Fund Our Future bus tour today in Central New York. “We’re not asking you to spend; we’re asking you to invest,” he said.
“We need to actually have a lifeline from the state and federal government; that starts with public education,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten, who joined today’s bus tour.
“We need the funding. We know the number one issue for kids right now is a safe and welcoming environment,” she said.
NYSUT President, Andy Pallotta, and AFT President, Randi Weingarten tour Franklin Elementary School in Syracuse with Kimberly Coyne, school principal.
Students in the hallway at Franklin Elementary in Syracuse.
“Imagine what Syracuse could do with Foundation Aid,” said Andy Pallotta, NYSUT president, leading the bus tour.
NYSUT is advocating for new taxes on the ultrawealthy to help pay for education shortfalls and other needs. New York is home to more billionaires and multimillionaires than any other state, Pallotta said. “Let’s start with the billionaires,” he said.