A community of African-American parents from Queens are sounding the alarm about why kids in their public school system seem not to be achieving academically despite a high rate of per-student spending by the Department of Education.
And they’re threatening to get answers in court if they must.
The newly formed Students Improvement Association — which has ripped the low school performance in southeast Queens despite high DOE spending — pledged to dig in against the agency.
Leaders Michael Duncan and Raymond Dugue have highlighted that the DOE spends upwards of $28,000 per student at many schools in poorly performing District 29.
Despite spending $27,000 per student at PS 134 in Hollis, only 6 percent of fifth-graders passed their state math exams in 2019, SIA noted.
At a rally outside DOE headquarters in Manhattan on Friday, attorney Courtney Smith, who is representing the group, said SIA is preparing legal challenges to the DOE’s stewardship of District 29.
The group has already suggested they have some idea of why that kind of spending isn’t leading to academic results for their children: they contend the DOE has burdened them with mediocre administrators that repeatedly fail students, and that this might suggest “a tolerance for low achievement numbers in the largely black district.”
“Based on the data at hand, it is my legal opinion that the DOE is in violation of Brown v. Board of Education,” said attorney Courtney Smith, who represents the group.
Raising the issue in terms of Brown v. Board could make any legal challenge a potential constitutional one. The Queens parents also are pledging to only vote for candidates that make their children a priority.
The New York push mirrors what’s happening over much of the country as enrollment dropped during the pandemic, but many schools are set to receive millions in additional funding for the coming school year.
Center Square reported Tuesday that this is exactly the situation developing in Louisiana.
Nearly 700,000 students were enrolled in Louisiana’s public schools for the 2020-2021 academic year, some 17,000 students fewer than the 2019-2020 school year.
The state’s 1,300 public schools across 70 school districts, however, will receive $19 million more in funding for the upcoming school year.
The Louisiana House and Senate approved a $3.9 billion K-12 education budget last month that takes effect Thursday. The increase will mean an $800 raise for teachers and an additional $400 for support staff.
Louisiana public schools took in $287 million in federal aid, according to the Center Square report. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education sets per-pupil funding under Louisiana state law and lawmakers have no power to dispute the standard once its set.
The National Center for Education Statistics notes that most of the drop-out rate nationally came within the very young demographics of preschool and kindergarten, which saw enrollment fall by a combined 13%.
All of this suggests parents removed children from schools voluntarily. So is the increase in funding from DOE a carrot to try to bring students back to public schools?
It’s a question that could come up in the New York case, as parents there attempt to understand where all that extra money is going should they re-enroll their children in public schools, and if any of it will make a difference in their children’s academic success.
“Any parent that has lived in the district knows we are suffering academically,” District 29 parent Lorraine Gittens-Bridges of Queens said. “We cannot wait any longer to act. Our children are depending on us.”