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Hawkins Calls for Increased School Funding, Desegregation
For immediate release: September 6, 2018
Calls for Increased State Action on Child Lead Contamination, Oil Bomb Trains
(Buffalo, NY) Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, called today for increased state funding for public schools in Buffalo, a school desegregation program, and an end to the use of standardized testing to evaluate schools and teachers and impose state takeover of schools using receivership.
Hawkins, whose Lt. Governor running mate Jia Lia is a public school teacher in New York City, also called forincreased state action to reduce student exposure to lead contamination.
“We need a Governor who will ensure a quality education for every child regardless of where they live or the economic status of their parents. Cuomo has failed to comply with court orders to raise funding for high-poverty inner-city and rural schools. The most powerful way to improve education for all students is to desegregate our schools, which in New York are the most segregated in the country,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said charter schools have increased segregation. “Cuomo has increased segregation by using standardized tests to justify the expansion of private charter schools that are even more segregated than our public schools. That rewards his hedge fund donors who profit off the charter industry, but it hurts the education of children,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins spoke in front BUILD Academy, a pre-K-8 school on Buffalo's East side attended predominantly by African-American and immigrant children. Low test scores were used by the state to impose an independent receiver, who has the power to turn it over to a charter school operation.
Hawkins said as Governor he would settle the two lawsuits by parents and children in high-poverty school districts to get the funding promised by the state in 2007. Buffalo should be getting $146 million more annually ins state school aid. The State has a $4.2 billion. cumulative shortfall in funding the Foundation Aid enacted in 2007 to satisfy the court ruling in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case.
Hawkins said Cuomo’s push to use standardized tests to evaluate students, teachers and schools primarily results in defining high-poverty schools like BUILD as failing, allowing them be put in receivership, with contracts eliminated, teachers fired, and the school privatized as a charter.
“Real education reform requires broader social reform to end poverty concentrated in disadvantaged communities by race and class segregation,” Hawkins said. “50 years of research has repeatedly found that the best predictor of test performance is socio-economic background, with school funding, class size, and teacher quality also having positive but small effects. The most powerful reform to close the achievement gap and improve other educational outcomes is schools that are integrated by class and race.”
In 2014, the Buffalo-Niagara metro area was ranked seventh most segregated by income and the fifth most segregated by race. Buffalo public schools today are just as segregated as they were in the 1970s, with a segregated school defined as at least 80% minority or 80% white.
Hawkins said data shows that Buffalo’s public school voluntary choice program has made segregation and inequality worse. He said the way to desegregate the Buffalo schools was a “controlled choice” program like those that have been successful in Cambridge MA and Raleigh NC. With controlled choice, both parental choice and family income are combined assigning students to schools that are desegregated. Given the racial separation and economic disparity between Buffalo and its suburbs, redrawing school district lines will be necessary for schools that reflect the metro region’s demographics.
On the issue of exposure of children to lead contamination, Hawkins called for the state to adopt the more stringent federal safety standard (currently 5 micrograms versus 10) for lead levels in blood tests; enact a statewide law requiring lead-safe certification before renting; more state funding to aid municipalities, landlords, and homeowners to test for and remediate lead; and require annual testing for lead in drinking and cooking water in schools (with remediation as needed).
“There is no safe level of lead in the blood of children. 46 years after the Surgeon General’s warning to test children, treat those poisoned, and remove the sources, this high level of child lead poisoning is outrageous. Both of the two major parties who have had governmental power to address this crisis are guilty of criminal neglect,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said the safety standard should be lowered to 3.5 micrograms, as the EPA was about to do before the Trump administration came into office.
“Before children can learn well, they need to be healthy and ready to learn,” Hawkins said. Lead poisoning retards motor skills and cognitive capacities and causes behavioral and emotional problems. 40% of children in Buffalo and Hawkins’ home city of Syracuse have elevated blood levels.82 percent of public school buildings in NYS reported one or more taps that tested above the state lead action level (15 ppb). Hawkins said the state standard should be no lead or at least lowered to 1 ppb, as recommended by the American American Academy of Pediatrics in 2016.
“There is no safe level of lead in the blood of children. 46 years after the Surgeon General’s warning to test children, treat the lead poisoned, and remove the sources, this high level of child lead poisoning is outrageous. Both of the two major parties who have had governmental power to address this crisis are guilty of criminal neglect,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins also supported the calls by environmental groups in Buffalo for the Cuomo administration to release the results safety inspections testing on rail and tanker cars that carry crude oil through the city, which it stopped releasing in February 2017.
“Residents living, working or traveling near the tracks that carry explosive Bakken crude oil have a right to know how safe the tracks and tankers are, and how frequent the NYSDOT inspects the rail infrastructure,” said Hawkins.
Noting that 20 K-12 public schools in Buffalo are within ½ mile of bomb train routes, Hawkins renewed his call during the 2014 gubernatorial campaign for a moratorium on oil trains through New York State.