BUFFALO, N.Y. – “An eighth-grade education is not enough,” said Western New York parents and education activists at a press conference here July 11. They were protesting Gov. George Pataki’s support of a recent Appeals Court decision that said that under the state constitution, New York is only required to educate children to an eighth grade level “in preparation for low-wage jobs.”

This decision overturned a January 2001 ruling by a Supreme Court justice that found that the state education funding formula discriminates against poor school districts, which means students in those districts are not receiving a “sound, basic education” as required by law. New York would have had to put much more money into education and change its funding formula.

“The Governor of New York has abandoned the children of New York State,” said Jim Anderson, a member of the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), the statewide group that organized the press conference. “The state should be putting more resources into programs that provide kids that are academically struggling with extra help, rather than fighting against these programs in court,” said Anderson. “Pataki campaigns pro-education but governs anti-education. He has got to go.”

Sherri Darrow, a research analyst, said students need higher levels of education in order to be prepared for the job market. She said less than a high school education leads to increased poverty levels and she pointed out that income inequality is rising the fastest in New York State.

Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve cited a Harvard study that shows that in New York, more than in any other state, education is “segregated and unequal.” Eve said, “The recent court decision must be overturned by the higher court because the effect will be absolutely devastating for the lives of our children and the future of our city, county and the state.” He urged everyone to vote in the November elections.

The AQE is urging people to call or write Gov. Pataki to tell him an eighth-grade education is not enough for any child, low-wage jobs are not good enough for our children and all children need a quality education, regardless of where they live, or how much money their parents make.

Similar protests were held in Albany and New York City.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org