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Survey: How NY Communities Want Public Schools To Use Covid Relief Funding

Paul Tuthill / WAMC

A new survey asked how Black and Latinx families, students and educators across New York would like to see local school districts invest $12 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding.

The Alliance for Quality Education report, titled “We Demand: How New York’s Communities Want to Use New Federal Aid to Public Schools,” includes results from over 1,000 respondents from across the state on their top priorities selected from a list of allowable uses of the new federal funding.

AQE Executive Director Jasmine Gripper says New York is getting two federal aid packages of over $12 billion for kindergarten through 12th grade education.

“The federal government says that when school districts are making their plans on how to spend this money, they must talk to parents, community members and other stakeholders to create meaningful plans on how they will use these new dollars and these new resources for our schools. But what we know is that oftentimes, Black and brown  parents, Black and brown communities, are left out of the engagement process. School districts often don't talk to Black parents, Latinx parents, immigrant parents and low income parents, even though their children are overwhelmingly attending our public schools. We surveyed over 1000 parents across New York State about what they wanted for their public schools, and how they thought the new federal aid should be used.”

Gripper says the two main takeaways from the survey are reducing class sizes and prioritizing students' mental health and emotional support.

AQE Policy Analyst Marina Marcou-O'Malley:    “For those of us who have school aged children who have been lucky enough to be in person in school, small class sizes have been lifesaving strategies, to be honest, and that should continue no matter what. Mental health supports and support staff will help all children, and especially the children that have experienced trauma, who have lost family members, friends, parents, teachers even, address, cope with that trauma. And I will, I would say that this trauma that a lot of children have experienced this year, has been going on before COVID hit, before the pandemic. The trauma of poverty cannot be addressed only in school, but school is one of the areas where the supports offered help children succeed, both academically but also social emotional. And later in life after they graduate.”

Marcou-O'Malley says the survey also found a great need for technology, specifically broadband internet connectivity and devices that are both age appropriate and functional, for students to do their work. There is also need for infrastructure for outdoor spaces and classroom spaces that are functional and engaging, plus summer learning opportunities.

“And in addition, and equally as important, is all the training that is necessary for all school staff to be going through. Last year we didn't just experience the pandemic, but also we had nationwide uprising to address racism and anti-racist education and culturally responsive sustaining education programs are really crucial for our schools, as are retaining, recruiting and retaining staff of color. All of these parents and community members identified as the necessary investments for this unprecedented federal investment that has come to New York, but also with the state dollars that have been investment in this year's massive budget. And as a mom of two school aged children, I can see firsthand how necessary it is to have all of those things that our parents across the state identified.”

Gripper says AQE expects feedback from districts once the report is thoroughly digested.

“But what we have seen is that districts across the state seems to be taking different approaches. You know, we've seen some districts that are starting to talk to parents, that are doing some listening sessions, and we've seen other districts that have done nothing, nothing public to engage parent and community support. And that's really disappointing.”

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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