Press Release

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** January 13, 2015

With 800,000 Students Failing To Meet Reading and Math Standards, Letter Calls on State Leaders to Intervene Urgently
Statewide Failing Schools Crisis Disproportionately Hurts Low-Income Students of Color in Cities

Contact:, 212 634 7469 OR, 347 596 6389

New York, NY— Families for Excellent Schools delivered a letter to Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Speaker Silver, and Senator Klein on Tuesday morning outlining the urgent need for aggressive state action on failing schools.

The letter, which highlights the depth of the failing schools crisis in New York State, details the disproportionate impact of school failure on students of color from high-poverty areas. With cities like New York City neglecting to address their failing schools crises, Families for Excellent Schools argues that the crisis of low-performing schools requires aggressive statewide intervention.

The full letter is below:

January 13, 2015

Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
Hon. Dean G. Skelos
Hon. Sheldon Silver
Hon. Jeffrey D. Klein
New York State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12230

Dear Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Skelos, Speaker Silver and I.D.C. Leader Klein:

We write to implore you to take urgent action to address a statewide failing schools crisis that traps almost one million children across New York State in failing schools.

Our state’s education system is fundamentally broken. All told, there are 3,500 schools where fewer than half of students can read or do math on grade level.  Some 800,000 children in grades 3 to 8 — more students than the combined enrollment of all public schools in Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Seattle — were not equipped to pass last year’s state exams.

There is unprecedented educational suffering across New York State. Consider Rochester, where 79% of schools fail the majority of their students. Consider Syracuse, where there isn’t a single school—not one—where the majority of students can do basic math.  Consider Yonkers, where only 1 in 20 high school students is college ready.

What’s worse, this is an education crisis that hurts our highest-need students the most. Students from our inner cities, our students of color, our families near the poverty line. In New York City, 143,000 students are trapped in failing schools — 96% are children of color and 93% come from families living in poverty.

As Governor Cuomo said so eloquently in his inauguration address, public education in New York today has truly become the “great discriminator.”  Our education system steals possibility from our young people every day. This cannot continue.

The depth of the failing schools crisis requires bold, structural change at the state level. For decades, New York State has failed to deliver the substantive changes our students deserve. Defenders of the bureaucracy will deny that our schools are failing or they will merely propose incremental changes that tinker at the edges of the problem: smaller class sizes, minutes added to the school day, and mandatory professional development.

But incremental reform will not do. To fix a structurally broken system that for decades has failed to deliver for children will take more than a few tweaks.

Unfortunately, it is clear that in many cases, our cities are not up to the task. New York City, for example, has recently proposed improvement plans for its most struggling schools that are so weak that they are virtually predestined to fail.  By taking such timid steps, cities like New York invite the state to intervene aggressively.

New York State is poised to lead the nation in boldly tackling this crisis. Governor Cuomo and other leaders in education have started an important dialogue.  You have asked the right questions and identified many of the right solutions.  You now have the power to act.  If our state is to take bold action that radically reduces the number of failing seats and expands access to excellent ones — be they district, charter, or parochial — we will all need your collective leadership.

With your commitment to reform, New York can be the first state in the nation to address and solve its pervasive failing schools crisis.  The forces of opposition will be great, but children and families in New York and across the nation have suffered for far too long.  Our children cannot wait, our state cannot wait, and our nation cannot wait.

Families for Excellent Schools