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Another Voice

Gap in Foundation Aid for schools leaves minority kids behind

By Patricia Elliott-Patton

I thought it was supposed to be “no child left behind.”

But my daughter WAS left behind. My baby girl was full of life, she once saw the world as hers for the taking. Nothing could hold her back – school was her favorite joy, she loved to learn.

In September 2010, my daughter entered the third grade at Waterfront Elementary PS 95. Later that year, her school was rated as a persistently low achieving, or PLA, school. I read it in the newspaper and was in disbelief. How did this happen? I say this not to blame the teachers or the school administration. This is the fault of New York State.

At the time, I had no idea for the reasoning behind the PLA determination. New York State currently owes the Buffalo School District $100.6 million in Foundation Aid, or classroom operating aid. This is money that New York is required by state law to provide to our schools, but is not.

In 1993, parents tired of seeing their children’s schools consistently and constantly underfunded filed a lawsuit against the state called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. In 2006, the parents won, and New York committed to infusing an additional $5.5 billion into schools over four years.

But this never happened. Instead, it cut billions from public schools during the financial crisis. Over a decade later, our children are still waiting for that funding.

I was a single mother of three school-aged children. I made sure, regardless of how hard it was, my children were taken care of. New York has the resources to provide children with their constitutional right to education. But the state is choosing to deny those resources to the schools that need them the most, and so many children are suffering as a result.

The decision to not fund Foundation Aid has been detrimental to Waterfront and to another 44 out of 57 schools on this PLA list – schools where a majority of students are black, Latino and low-income. The decision to inadequately fund Foundation Aid has been a decision to knowingly fail these students.

My daughter was one of the 27,000 students of the 32,000 in the district that did not receive the education she was entitled to. I joined intervention teams, I assisted in the schools’ turnaround plan, I campaigned for public schools – but without funding, it wasn’t enough.

In June 2019, my once happy little girl was set to graduate, but she couldn’t pass. She tried her best. She was supposed to go to college with a scholarship. Instead, her once exuberant joy has now faded to sorrow and pain.

I once was a proud parent of a child in the Buffalo School District. But now I’m angry my child was left behind.

Patricia Elliott-Patton works as a parent advocate with the Buffalo District Parent Coordinating Council.

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