Gov. Kathy Hochul, the first New York mom to be our governor, did the right thing by dedicating millions of dollars in funding for high-impact tutoring in her 2023-2024 budget. New York lawmakers, however, oppose mandating the funding for high-impact tutoring, a major investment that would benefit New York’s most vulnerable kids.
According to the latest data, New York ranks 46th nationally in fourth-grade math performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and there is a 26-percentage point (math) and 24 percentage point (ELA) gap between the proficiency rates of economically disadvantaged students and non-economically disadvantaged students. What is most alarming is that parents like me saw the acute learning regression even before COVID-19, and the learning gaps of minority children have only widened post-pandemic.
It’s no secret New York is quickly losing its position as a state known for a high-quality education system, as kids across the state, like my 6-year-old daughter, continue to struggle with academic milestones. Although tutoring costs are astronomical—about $4,000 for 80 hours in Upstate New York—the stakes are too high not to act. Like other parents, I have to make sacrifices to hustle and drive my daughter to a tutoring center so that she can spend an extra two hours every week for ELA tutoring support.
The state Assembly and Senate have chosen to be on the wrong side of history by flatly rejecting the governor’s proposal to fund and require high-impact tutoring in schools by setting aside $250 million in Foundation Aid—the main formula used to provide state funding for New York school districts. Although the rejection does not mean Hochul’s proposal is dead, the unanimous disapproval emanating from both houses is deeply concerning.
This shouldn’t be the case for families who often rely on one source of income and for kids who are often considered economically disadvantaged.
Research has found that students perform better in school when they’re tutored frequently in small groups. We know that tutoring is accessible only to those who can pay unless it is paid for in our state budgets. Not only is investing in tutoring the most impactful thing we can do to make up for learning loss, it is also a commitment to equity.
As we consider how to help kids catch up in the next year, we know two things to be true: We know that we cannot catch kids up by relying on a traditional seven-hour school day; and second, we know that families who are struggling with costs of everyday goods and services need schools to provide free, high-quality tutoring for our kids.
It is critical that state lawmakers agree to the terms of the governor’s budget—which is due for passage by April 1—as it relates to tutoring options. New York kids are behind in life-altering ways and we need aggressive, research-based action to help them catch up.
Removing the governor’s mandate for a dedicated fund for high-impact tutoring options leaves room for error within district spending. We have seen all too often how Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds go to waste with school districts throwing money at projects without significant oversight and accountability.
If high-impact tutoring funds are mandated, it could be a key component in ensuring families are getting the support they need. Lawmakers need to wake up and do the right thing to address learning gaps and immediately dedicate resources to support our children.
Ashara Baker, of Rochester, is co-founder of the New York State Charter Parent Council and the New York State director for the National Parents Union, a grassroots national advocacy group dedicated to empowering parent voices and increasing the quality of education in public schools.