Actress Cynthia Nixon visits Albany to ask the governor to allocate more funding for education in the state's final budget. Photo by Matthew McKibben.
March 24, 2014An Emmy Award winning actress is calling for the return of the governor she voted for – the one who said inequity in education funding and failing schools is the prevailing civil rights issue of our time.
Cynthia Nixon, best known for known for her role in the TV show "Sex and the City," joined lawmakers, school officials and members of the Alliance for Quality Education to ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo to lead again in the push for equitable funding for public schools.
Nixon quoted Cuomo from 2010, when he was running for office. Cuomo said "I think the inequity in education is probably the civil rights issue of our time."
"This is not the Andrew Cuomo I voted for, and I voted for him. I voted for the Andrew Cuomo who said education inequality is the greatest civil rights issue facing us and how it's the state's responsibility to fix it," Nixon said. "I want him back. We need him back. The students of New York state need that student lobbyist he promised to be."
Nixon, in step with AQE, criticized current education policies and points to the disparity in funding for wealthy and poor districts, which is just under $9,000 per pupil. According to AQE the gap is $8,928.
"Gov. Cuomo, in the first year of his governorship, he rolled out a $1.3 billion cut to education. That cut was absorbed at three or four times in poor districts as it was in wealthy districts," Nixon said. "We are still reeling from that. We cannot recover from that. So for the last four years we have seen severe cuts and the cuts just keep getting deeper."
Nixon said she became involved in the campaign for equal schools when her first child entered the public school system right before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, which created budget difficulties within the city. She said she has seen the ups and downs of school funding firsthand. Her second child entered the school system on the heels of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement when, for a time, money started flowing in 2007. Now her youngest child is entering school and she said conditions are as bad, if not worse, than they were when her first child started school.
Billy Easton, the executive director of AQE, said his group's argument is not just with the governor, but with all of state government, but he said the governor needs to start leading the way.
"We are saying the deal reached by the governor and the legislative leaders is inadequate and we need the Legislature to intervene and get more school funding right," Easton said. "However the tone and direction on education; the priorities, are driven by the governor and what his budget sets."
Others present at Monday's press conference included Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan; Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, D-Brooklyn; Bill Samuels, founder of Effective NY; and Larry Spring, superintendent of Schenectady school district and a familiar face at AQE events.