Alliance for Quality Education

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New York voters will decide in November whether the state should borrow $2 billion for new technology, including iPads, in school classrooms. Teachers and school administrators who could benefit from the funds say they are supportive, but want to see more details.

The Bond Act, as it reads on the November ballot, would provide access to classroom technology and high-speed Internet connections, as well as offer funds to build more pre-kindergarten classrooms and replace the trailers that some overcrowded schools in New York City have been using to teach students.

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Education funding advocates say they have a use for the recently announced $4.2 billion state surplus. They say schools in New York, particularly the state’s poorest schools, could really use the money.

The Alliance for Quality Education’s Billy Easton says New York has fallen far behind in carrying out an order issued eight years ago form the state’s highest court saying schools, particularly the poorest districts,  deserve billions of dollars more in state funding each year.

“This is money that is due to schools that has never been paid,” Easton said.

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Fewer than 20 percent of school districts outside of New York City have expressed interest in expanding their pre-kindergarten programs. Critics say that falls far short of the goals of a program billed in the state budget as  universal pre-K.

When the state budget was approved on March 31, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders touted funding for pre-kindergarten that they said could lead to making it universal in New York state.

Senate Co-leader Jeff Klein was one of its biggest advocates.

The state budget deadline is approaching and education issues are taking center stage. Only one day before massive rallies for universal pre-K and charter schools, other advocates say they’ve gathered evidence for potentially another lawsuit for more state aid for schools.

The Alliance for Quality Education has been touring schools around the state to document what they say is the erosion of districts in economically depressed areas.

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Education advocacy groups are giving Gov. Andrew Cuomo bad grades when it comes to spending on education in his proposed 2014 budget, as Syracuse parents and community members believe the state needs to come through with substantially more money for schools in the spending plan.

Cuomo’s proposed budget, unveiled this week, includes a $608 million increase in education funding. The increase is well short of what education advocates like former Hannibal school teacher and Citizen Action of New York Board Member Bill Spreeter say is needed.

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Last year, students suspended from the Syracuse City School District lost 23,555 days of instruction, and 55 percent of African-American students in the district have been suspended at least once. Those are some of the sobering statistics from a nationally known expert on school suspensions who reported on the state of suspensions in the district for the Board of Education last night.

Lekia Hill of the Alliance for Quality Education says the statistics are disturbing, especially when many of these suspensions are for minor infractions.

Test scores for third through eighth graders were released Wednesday and they show a dramatic drop in the number of New York state students who are considered proficient in math and English.

Less than one-third of students in the third through eighth grade, around 31 percent, passed the new math and English exams given for the first time this year, says Regents Chancellor Merrill Tisch, who made the announcement on a conference call.

“As anticipated, the scores we are announcing today are significantly lower,” Tisch said.

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Albany received an earful from hundreds of students, parents educators and community members Wednesday about recent cuts in funding for education. The "Educate New York Now Express" has been rolling across the state, picking up supporters and support for their plea to lawmakers to reinvest in public education.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is set to release his state  budget plan on Tuesday, as New York faces a $2 billion dollar budget gap.