Addressing the needs of poor school districts that have been hit hard by several years of funding cuts is the top educational priority of progressive groups in the New Year, according to the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE).

“If New York can make it’s tax code fairer, there’s no reason it can’t do the same for its school funding system, said Nikki Jones, Communications Director for AQE.

Jones makes this and other points today in a taped “State of the Schools Address.”

“When Albany slashes school funding, as it has for three years in row, wealthier districts are so much better equipped to protect schools that poor districts. What we are now seeing in poor districts is appalling: crowded classrooms; greatly reduced class offerings and the elimination of tutoring and other programs. These are severe impacts that must be addressed,” Jones said.

AQE supports a recent proposal by the state Board of Regents that would prioritize funding for high need schools. These high need schools are located in rural areas and small cities primarily, but exist throughout the state.

AQE challenged the Governor’s expected focus on testing in his State of the State address: “Judging school based primarily on test scores in two subjects has resulted in teaching to the test, narrowing of the curriculum and a dumbing down of public education,” Jones said.

Jones said the state’s education system needs accountability: “We need accountability, including holding the state accountable to fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide every student a sound basic education,” she said.

Jones said that AQE was planning a large rally education funding fairness in Albany on January 10th.

AQE is the state’s largest coalition of grassroots organizations fighting for quality public schools. The coalition is funding mainly by educational foundations, but does receive a portion of its funding from teacher unions. The agenda for the coalition is set by students, parents, educators and community advocates.