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Education is not only a Human Need, it is also a Human Right.

Education has always been the cornerstone of freedom and democracy, and key to economic prosperity. But never before in our history has education been more crucial to the collective future of the city of Mt. Vernon and to the individual futures of our young people. Our public schools must strive to provide equality in educational opportunity unlike at any time in the nations history. The demand is urgent and growing to educate all students to meet rigorous academic standards, and to prepare them for post-secondary education and an increasingly specialized workforce in the global economy. Mt. Vernon is a city that houses 23% of all families that receive social services in Westchester County. Mt. Vernons Poverty level is at 14.2%. The median income in Mt. V ernon is $49,862, well below the states at $71,524 and the countys median income at $77,006. In Mt. Vernon there are 3,682 single-parent households (513 men, 3,169 women). The median income for single male family is $36,518 and a single female family $32,335 according to Education is not only a human need, it is also a human right. Every child has a human right to receive a well- funded education. This makes our children assets to our community and to our nation. Low-income parents have been out of the loop of decision making of well-funded schools in Mt. Vernon to provide their children with the same level of education that other cities receive. Often the answer to their pleas is "no, as politicians, policymakers - even many members of the general public - claim that "money doesn't matter" for school quality. But the facts say otherwise, as spelled out in the report released on Feb. 18 by the Equity and Excellence Commission, solicited by the U.S. Department of Education, and those recently released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Center for American Progress. The Equity and Excellence Commission, a group of 27 educational experts, economists, and civil rights leaders, write that there is a dire need to address the current educational system's unequal distribution of opportunity, including by funding inequities. This achievement gap is not a coincidence. Money matters. Money translates into tangible resources that make a real difference. It means more qualified and experienced teachers, laboratory equipment, attractive school grounds, heat and air conditioning, buildings without asbestos, rats, and lead.

More money per pupil can also boost technological facilities, ensure more diverse and rigorous course offerings, and pay for after-school and extracurricular activities that enhance student attendance and attractiveness to college and university admissions officers. The reality is that without these resources, students in under-resourced schools rarely reach the same levels of academic achievement as their peers in resource-rich schools. Resource availability also shapes messages children receive about their own worthiness and life prospects. Is it too much to ask to have a collage or career ready student upon graduation day? If Mt. Vernon believes in equal educational opportunity, why do glaring gaps in school resources occur? Why are people fighting and denied an increase that will lay the foundation of educational improvements for our children and the future of the city of Mt. Vernon? According to the report by Judith Johnson, Mt. Vernon Schools Interim Super Intendant, "We dont spend as much as the other Westchester districts on enrichment, specialized assistance and more. Our students come to schools with limited literacy skills knowing 10,000 words while others in the more affluent areas know 100,000 words. By grade four these students may have a two million word divide. This is fixable. But it takes funds to build researched based enrichment programs that can close the gap. Fund and mandate full day pre-kindergarten for all four year old children, especially those in high poverty schools." To right this ship, Mt. Vernons schools need more resources, which then must be spent wisely. Available research finds that improved infrastructure, programmatic offerings, and teacher quality boosts student engagement and leads to higher levels of academic achievement, high school graduation, and college attendance. More resources could also reduce deeply entrenched racial inequalities, which persist in Mt. Vernon almost six decades after the Supreme Court's landmark Brown vs. Board of Education ruling intended to begin equalizing education for all children. But politicians and reformers have only given lip service that every child receive the resources they need to succeed academically, regardless of where they attend school. For many years Mt. Vernon has been rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship that lacks sufficient resources to stay afloat. With all these challenges, Voters still turned down the $225,885,332 spending plan and two percent increase in the tax levy. 1,169 residents decided the fate of approximately 16,000 children under 18 in need of a well-funded educational system. A city and/or neighborhood that is not farsighted enough to invest in quality education for all lacks knowledge of how crime becomes intergenerational as a lifestyle in their city. Children who can't read and receive social promotions allow them to graduate without basic academic skills; they often have no way out of poverty other than crime. Poverty is not a family value. An examination of state budgets has revealed that most states, despite spending more money overall on education, are spending three to four times more per capita incarcerating prisoners

than they are educating students. New York State spends about $59,000 per inmate a year and approximately $16,000 for every student in the school system. As a Correction Officer for 23 years and a representative of a national Law Enforcement organization, we do recognize that pockets of communities that have high dropout rates also have a low literate population that results in a decrease in wages, and increase in crime that is directly correlated to an increase in the rates of incarceration. In essence, if you dont pay in the front end with inadequate educational funding, you will pay in the back end with housing a rising inmate population in the Westchester County Jail. When you live in a poor neighborhood, youre living in an area where you have poor schools. When you have poor schools, you get a poor education. Poor Education, you can only work on poor paying jobs and that enables you to live in a poor neighborhood. So its a vicious cycle. Weve got to break it. Malcolm X

Damon K. Jones