“Enough is enough.”
That was the rallying cry of the 39 students who rallied outside of Westbury High School last week, demanding the district get their fair share of Foundation Aid funding from the state.
According to district officials, Westbury is entitled to $74.5 million in foundation aid—that’s a number based on a state formula which considers wealth, number of students, student need and other factors. However, the initial state budget allocated only 47 percent, or $35,046,550, of foundation aid to the district.
This is “markedly less than the minimum 55 percent needed to provide ongoing quality education to its students and far less than what the state’s own formula says the District should be receiving,” the district said in a release.
While district officials have lamented the loss of funding for years, this year the district finds itself at a critical juncture. New facilities and more resources are needed to accommodate growing enrollment, and if funding doesn’t come through for the district, it could mean adjustments to summer school, before/after school programs, tutorials, transportation and staffing.
Students took up the mantle on March 27, holding a press conference to capture the attention of those in charge of the state’s purse strings.
“We have a financial crisis,” said student Jahshua Taylor, who organized the rally with his Time for Action Initiative co-founder Jessica Ellis. “We need the sympathy of those who make these decisions to make sure we have what we need to run normally as a school district…we came out to speak our voices so we can be heard and change can happen.”
The 39 students representing the $39 million funding gap held up signs asking for educational equity, as well as spoke on how the lack of funding over the years has affected their education.
Senior Mandy Wagnec said as an AP student applying to colleges, not having the same course offerings as other districts has made it hard to stand out.
“There are so many opportunities not given to us and we’re at a significant disadvantage,” said Wagnec, adding that she’s seen a number of programs disappear over the years. “I hope that [elected officials hear] that we are students too and that every student deserves the same quality of education. Every student deserves a chance to achieve greatness.”
“I want people to have the opportunities I had while I was at school, or even more,” said junior Alahna Perez. “Taking away the funds we need to provide services is unruly because how could you just strip away the education of a child when our goal is to foster the growth of kids and make our next generation even better.”
In addition to the students’ rally, the Westbury Teachers Association has created a petition at https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stand-up-for-westbury?source=c.em.cp&r_by=19929567 where residents can ask elected officials to provide more funding.
“We just want educational equity,” said Christine Corbett, president of the Westbury Teacher’s Association. “Students shouldn’t be faced with losing programs and athletics and clubs and the things they love which provide a comprehensive education. Just give the kids what they need.”
State aid will be formalized by April 2.