An advocacy group says the state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), including Sen. David Valesky of Oneida, helped deliver a larger state aid increase to private charter schools than to public schools, as a reward for campaign donations.
A report titled “Pay to Play: Charter Schools and the IDC,” was issued Thursday by the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE).
The group cites in its report that $677,000 has been donated since 2011 to IDC members
and the IDC campaign committee by charter school backers, including hedge fund managers and their political action
Among donations since 2011 cited in the AQE report, from charter school-affiliated individual and political action groups to IDC members and related committees, “Valesky for Senate” is listed as a recipient on about 11 separate dates.
Those donations totaled $18,500.
The report said the operating aid increase per pupil for charter schools in the 2017-18 state budget was twice as large as the increase for public schools in the per-student operating aid, also known as foundation aid.
The report showed “how the IDC worked to reward these charter school backers with their Republican Senate Coalition partners....,” said AQE.
“The IDC claims to champion public schools, but they can’t escape the numbers, which show that they have sold out to hedge-funder backed charter schools,” said AQE Executive Director Billy Easton.
The IDC is considered a faction of Democrats who ally with Republicans to give the Senate its majority, the Associated Press has said.
However, Valesky, D-53, on Thursday disagreed with the AQE statements.
“As a longtime supporter of education, I strongly advocated for additional school aid to be targeted to the public school districts that need it most, many of which are located in Central New York,” said Valesky.
“I will continue to work to ensure that schools receive sufficient and equitable aid to provide necessary resources to our students,” the Oneida Democrat added.
State aid for education in the 2017-18 state budget increased by more than $1 billion overall. It included increased funding for charter schools by $500 per pupil. The budget debate reflected a “funding tug-of-war between charter and traditional public schools,” chalkbeat.org said in April. The budget had “a set of compromises” for both sides, it said.
All school districts, meanwhile, were guaranteed a foundation aid increase in the 2017-18 budget of at least 2.74 percent over 2016-17 levels, the New York State School Boards Association said in April.