State has failed to provide equal education for students in SE Queens

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As a parent of multiple children, you always want to make sure that you provide each of them with the same access and opportunity to be the best they can be.

But what happens when the state robs you of that chance?

I’m an educational activist from Jamaica. My husband and I work side-by-side daily to try to ensure that the children of our community are provided with the best education New York has to offer. But even in the case of our two sons, New York is unfair and inconsistent.

Our sons attend what is now known as a renewal school, August Martin High School — our neighborhood school for decades.

The school once featured five different academies for students to choose from, each featuring a unique career direction: Business and Law, Communication Arts, Culinary Arts, Aviation, and Medical Science.

Through partnerships with local colleges and professional development programs the students at August Martin have gained the hands-on skills and training necessary to guide them into adulthood. This was the picture of August Martin when my first son went there from 2008-2012. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for my second son.

In the past six years, we’ve lost the Business and Law Academy, the Communication Arts Academy, and the Medical Academy — three of the five programs our school offered. This tragic loss comes down to money.

New York state has owed our school almost $1 million for decades and we were not able to employ the lawyers, medical professionals, or everyday teachers necessary to sustain these programs.

At one point, August Martin partnered with Fox, the Apollo Theater, Farmingdale Airfield - the list goes on and on - to provide high quality learning experiences for our students.

Since the loss of our programs, enrollment has dropped and we’ve been threatened with closing.

Though my son did not have the same opportunities as his older brother, he has been successful and will advance to college next year.

But our fight is not just for our sons.

The tremendous loss that August Martin has experienced is undoubtedly following the pattern of systemic racism that exists in our state.

Areas like Jamaica that are mostly black, Latino and mostly low-income have been neglected for decades. The Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit that was decided in 2006 proved that New York state was failing to fulfill the needs of black, brown, and low-income students statewide.

Yet cases like mine exist in these communities to this day. I know this because I decided to take a stand and in October. I joined a wonderful group of parents and community activists on a 150-mile walk to Albany.

This need is specific to communities like mine all across the state and it is tragic that in 2016, New York state would attempt to proclaim the mantle of progressivism as the system of racist and inequitable funding of schools continues.

I found a way to equalize the success of both of my sons. But we are the exception, not the rule.

It has been proven that New York state needs to provide more funding to high needs districts in order for every child to have access to a “sound basic education” and it’s past time for the state to comply.

For Gov. Cuomo to attempt to eliminate the very aid that communities like mine need is criminal, but we have one message for him: “Fully fund the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, so that all students can reach their full potential.”

Dionne McNeil


Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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Reader feedback

No diversity from Queens says:
Yep, NYC FAILS to bring diversity to schools. I would just love to see the Chinese and Korean kids being bused into schools in Jamaica. Over here in bayside, they use to bus the kids in from Jamaica over here but that special q31 bus became a q27 bus now. They don't even put many Asian kids into flushing high school even though most of flushing is Asian! The biggest population of race in flushing high school is black and Spanish kids which doesn't make any sense because 70 percent of the area is Chinese/Korean kids.
Feb. 3, 2017, 5:51 pm
In your area from Queens says:
If everyone had to go to school in his/her district, then they would improve the schools. Instead they take the easy out and fix some and not others.
Feb. 6, 2017, 4:31 pm

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