Hawkins Says Mayor Must Champion Syracuse Schools

Calls for Increased State Funding, Desegregation, and an End to High-Stakes Testing

Standing outside the Westside Academy at Blodgett in the high-poverty Near Westside, Green mayoral candidate Howie Hawkins said Friday that the next mayor must be a champion for Syracuse schools.

Full Funding

“It is wrong the balance the state budget on the backs of school children living in poverty. I will use the bully pulpit of the mayor’s office and all the city’s legal powers to insist on quality education for all our children, regardless of their parents’ income or neighborhood,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins said he would press the state to fully fund Foundation Aid. Under the Foundation Aid Formula adopted in by the state in 2007, the city school district should have received $83 million more in funding this year. The school district is short more than $500 million cumulatively from what Foundation Aid would have provided had it been funded in state budgets as the law provided for.

Hawkins supports the lawsuit of Syracuse and New York City parents for full funding of schools to secure a “sound, basic education." The city of Syracuse is the 9th poorest school district in the state, but it ranks 84th in per-pupil spending. Syracuse students receive 38% less funding per student than Rochester and Buffalo student.

“With equitable and adequate funding,” Hawkins said, “we can provide the extra help our low-income children need, including universal pre-K and community schools that provide social services for children and their families.”


While Hawkins opposes mayoral control of the school system, he does believe the mayor should be a vocal champion for better schools, with desegregation by economic class and race as the key reform to advocate for.

Schools with high concentrations of poor students perform poorly on standardized tests. No schools with high concentrations of poor students are high performing schools anywhere in the state or nation. With the highest concentrations of black and Latino poverty, and fifth highest concentration of white poverty, in high-poverty census tracks among U.S. cities, Hawkins said that poor and working-class families in Syracuse are isolated from the resources and opportunities that the professional-managerial middle class takes for granted.

Hawkins noted that while the black/white achievement gap on standardized tests in Syracuse schools has closed, the test scores are abysmally low. Only 13.1 percent of Syracuse students in grades 3 through 8 scored at a proficient level in 2017 on state math and English language tests. Poor white students struggle like the poor black and Latino students on the tests.

"Martin Luther King gave a speech in Syracuse in 1965 warning us that if we didn’t end the de facto segregation in our schools, we would lose generations of children. That is what has happened over the last 50 years. We can’t wait any longer to begin desegregating our schools," said Hawkins.

“Adequate and equitable school funding, the quality of facilities and equipment, teacher expectations, and class size all help and should be done. But nothing comes close to improving educational outcomes for all students that desegregation has proven to achieve,” Hawkins added.

Integrated schools are better for middle class as well as poor and working class students. Hawkins noted that desegregation of schools by race and class has proven to be by far the strongest way to close the race and class achievement gaps as measured by standardized tests. Integration by race and class substantially improves the academic achievement of lower income students and also improves the achievement levels of middle class students to a lesser degree.

All students in integrated schools – poor, working class, and middle class alike – have better outcomes on measures of intellectual self-confidence, leadership skills. critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, team work, and empathy and tolerance across racial and class lines.

“Integrated schools are better for middle class as well as poor and working-class students. The next mayor and city school officials should emphasize these facts in proposing desegregation with school districts adjacent to the city,’ Hawkins said.

End “Test, Punish, and Privatize” Agenda

Nine of Syracuse’s 34 public schools are defined as “struggling” based on children’s standardized test scores. They may be taken over by a state receiver and converted to privately-managed charter schools next year if the test scores do not improve substantially. “We must resist that outcome and defend our schools from outside takeover, which would be a financial and educational disaster for the school district and our students,” Hawkins said

Hawkins opposes the state’s high-stakes testing policy of evaluating students, teachers, and schools with standardized testing. He said the high-poverty schools inevitably score poorly and those scores are being used to punish and convert them into privately-managed charter schools. He denounced this policy as “a test, punish, and privatize agenda that turns public school budgets over to private entities and undermines public education.”

Renovate Blodgett

Hawkins made his remarks outside the Westside Academy at Blodgett, a school building in urgent need of renovation. The school building has been neglected for decades, with sections of the school now closed off due to asbestos, high lead from water fountains, a leaky roof, cracking walls and floors, and a crumbling facade. It will take an estimated $54 million dollars to completely repair the school.

Hawkins said the Joint Schools Construction Board should prioritize renovating Blodgett, the physical and spiritual heart of the Near Westside neighborhood. $17 million is available for Blodgett in the current round of funding for school buildings, but the Joint Schools Construction Board has yet to commit that money to repairs. The board could recommend closing the school, with the neighborhood’s middle school students then required to walk to Shea Middle School 1.2 miles away in another neighborhood.

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Howie Hawkins is the 2017 Green candidate for Syracuse Mayor
Hawkins for Mayor