A ‘Moral Monday’ Protest Against School Funding Inequity in New York

Isaiah J. Poole

Rev. William Barber, the president of the NAACP’s North Carolina chapter and the leader of the state’s “Moral Mondays” movement joined education advocates in New York State today in a protest against inequitable education funding.

The protest coincided with a report by the Alliance for Quality Education that said that educational inequality had grown to record-setting levels under New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The report said that the spending gap between rich and poor schools in New York in the past two years had increased by $700, to in excess of $8,700 more per student.

“The only way you can accept the inequality of funding at public schools is to argue that certain children in certain communities are inherently inferior,” Barber said at the event, as reported by Time Warner Cable News.

The rally in New York is part of a larger nationwide mobilization to increase funding for public education after years of belt-tightening in the wake of the 2008 recession.

Don Carlisto, a public school teacher in Saranac Lake, N.Y., said that during the recession that the state balanced its budget on the backs of the public schools, and that has had real consequences in his district.

“There’s been a loss of course offerings, a loss of extracurricular activities … there is a lack of professional development opportunities,” he said.

“We find a way to do more with less,” he said, but rural, economically depressed school districts like the one he teaches in can’t financially compete with wealthier districts, he said.

He said that Rev. Barber remarked at how surprised he was to see the level of segregation and economic unfairness he saw in the state.

The state-level fight reflects a fight that will also unfold in the coming weeks as Congress considers the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Making sure that there is more federal funding support for school districts and reducing federal testing mandates is “going to be a major focal point for teachers all over the country.” Carlisto said.

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