DemocracyReady NY

New from the Coalition New York State Map

Coalition Calls on ​​Governor ​and Legislature ​​to Safeguard Education Funding

Cutting schools​' budgets​ will worsen ​existing ​inequities and inadequacies​ 





July 20, 2020


To Governor Cuomo and Members of the New York State Legislature:

As members of the statewide DemocracyReady NY Coalition, whose mission is to foster civic readiness for all students, we are concerned about the threat to New York students’ educational rights posed by the COVID crisis. As our country continues to respond to the COVID-19 public health crisis, and reckons with the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks and George Floyd, schools will need more resources, not less, to meet the needs of every student. Continuing to underfund schools will have a disproportionate impact on the education of students in under-resourced communities and vulnerable students of color.

Under the state constitution, all students are entitled to a sound basic education that prepares them to be effective civic participants. This right does not disappear in times of fiscal constraint—even during this pandemic with its resulting unprecedented health and economic crises. And it is especially important as our nation engages in a national dialogue and reckoning about the state of race and justice in America. This means every school must have qualified personnel, up-to-date curricula, appropriate class sizes, instructional materials and technology, facilities, and student supports that meet all its students’ needs.

Schools must also be able to provide their students sufficient civic learning opportunities. In the current crisis, civic readiness is more important than ever to strengthen and amplify the political and civic voices of historically marginalized communities and ensure the government works effectively for all, regardless of income or race. In these times, efforts by school systems to work with nonprofits, community members, and local governments to provide students with civic education could be restorative, empowering, and uniting, not to mention an important investment in the health and vitality of an accessible, inclusive and representative democracy.

Underfunding schools will worsen existing educational inequities and inadequacies, which have been exacerbated during COVID-19. Our education system must provide youth with culturally competent curriculum and effective civic education to ensure they gain the knowledge, skills, dispositions necessary for effective civic leadership and participation. School budget cuts disproportionately harm the most vulnerable children in marginalized communities because their schools are more reliant on state aid and are more likely to already be under-resourced.

The pandemic and the current movement for equity and justice has exposed more clearly than ever the terrible extent of social vulnerabilities and inequities New York State has long ignored or thought too complex or politically risky to confront. New York’s leaders cannot continue to perpetuate these inequities. In the face of a looming and potentially unprecedented school-funding crisis, we must tackle these inequities. We must build back better to ensure that our most vulnerable students are never again disproportionately harmed or deprived of their right to the opportunity for a sound basic education.

The DemocracyReady NY Coalition calls on New York’s leaders to commit to preserving education budgets and allocating sufficient funding to meet the instructional and learning support needs of all students, including especially those in the most vulnerable and historically underfunded districts. In particular, the Coalition encourages the state to identify solutions that result in elevating educational opportunities for historically underserved students and maintaining civic learning as an educational priority as it is essential for helping the state achieve these ends. 

The members of the Coalition are committed to working with and supporting you to accomplish these recommendations. We remain available individually and collectively to discuss these recommendations in greater detail at your convenience. 



Michael A. Rebell, Coordinator

The DemocracyReady NY Coalition


Publications New York State Map

New Report on Media Literacy from DemocracyReady NY:

Developing Digital Citizens: Media Literacy Education for All Students, a new report from DemocracyReady NY, calls for immediate and decisive steps to require media literacy education in schools throughout New York State. Stressing that “the internet has become the new public square,” it asserts that “to be democracy ready, all students must be media literate.” The report defines what media literacy encompasses in an increasingly digital age, and establishes a clear framework to ensure that all students become media literate civic participants.

The full report can be read below:

Mission & Goals New York State Map


DemocracyReady NY is a statewide, nonpartisan, intergenerational coalition of organizations and individuals committed to preparing all students for civic participation.


  • To promote all New York students’ right under the state constitution to develop the knowledge, skills, experiences, and dispositions needed to engage, today and in the future, as effective civic participants,

  • To raise awareness about that right,

  • To strengthen state education law, policy, practice, and resources to guarantee that right in every New York school, and

  • To mobilize the expertise of students, parents, educators, researchers, advocates, legal experts, youth-development specialists, policymakers, and philanthropy to work collectively toward these goals.

Big Picture New York State Map

National Civic Crisis

  • The last several years have highlighted some troubling developments in our national politics: an increasingly polarized electorate, lack of focus on substantive policy, and widespread acceptance of one-sided, erroneous information.

  • Other disturbing trends have existed for decades. A low proportion of eligible voters actually go to the polls; the number of citizens who participate in local community activities has dramatically declined; and more Americans than ever are neglecting basic civic responsibilities, like jury service.

  • These worrisome trends raise serious questions about how well schools are carrying out one of their most critical responsibilities—to prepare a new generation that is capable of safeguarding our democracy and stewarding our nation toward a greater realization of its democratic values—even though the U.S. Supreme Court and 32 state supreme courts have explicitly stated that preparation for capable citizenship is a primary purpose of education.

New York State Constitutional Right Not Realized

  • The New York State constitution guarantees every student in the state the right to education defined in terms of preparation for civic participation.

  • Far too many schools, particularly schools that serve students in poverty and Black and Brown students, are ill equipped to provide this type of education and fulfill this critical guarantee.

  • If schools are not preparing students for active civic engagement, then they are not meeting their obligations under the law.

  • Many experienced educators, civic education experts, and democratic engagement advocates are surprised to learn this. Even fewer students and families have access to this important information.

New York Can Lead the Way

  • Equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, experiences, and values, young people recognize their civic roles and exercise their civic powers to work for meaningful social change.

  • Through a concerted effort by DemocracyReady NY and others who care deeply about civic preparation and engagement, New York can lead the way in ensuring that, from pre-K through 12th grade, schools prepare young people to strengthen our democracy.

About the Coalition New York State Map


  • The DemocracyReady NY Coalition is convened by the Center for Educational Equity (CEE), a policy and research center, at Teachers College, Columbia University. CEE’s expertise and experience in students’ rights, education policy, civic participation, and public engagement position it to lead the Coalition.

  • Founded in 2005 by educational law scholar Michael A. Rebell, who successfully litigated the landmark educational-rights lawsuit, CFE v. State of New York, the Center for Educational Equity champions the right of children nationwide to a meaningful opportunity to graduate from high school prepared for college, careers, and civic participation. It works to define and secure the resources, supports, and services necessary to guarantee this right to all children, particularly children in poverty and Black and Brown children.

  • CEE Executive Director Michael Rebell is the author of the acclaimed 2018 book Flunking Democracy: Schools, Courts, and Civic Participation.

  • On November 29, 2018, Rebell filed a federal class action suit to establish a right under the U.S. Constitution to an adequate education to prepare young people for full civic participation. Read more about the lawsuit.



  • DemocracyReady NY Coalition partners are educators, researchers, academics, students, parents, advocates, youth-development specialists, legal experts, and civic leaders.  We strive to be geographically representative, politically inclusive, and racially and socioeconomically diverse.

  • Under the coalition’s banner, a broad and diverse group work together to strengthen the state’s education policy and practice to ensure all New York’s schools are fully equipped and supported to meet their students’ civic-learning needs.


Organizations (in formation)

Alliance for Quality Education

Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute

Capital Region Institute for Human Rights

Center for Children's Initiatives

Center for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University

Citizens’ Committee for Children

Citizens Union

Common Cause New York

Democracy Prep Public Schools

Facing History and Ourselves

Generation Citizen

Inquiring Minds 

League of Women Voters of New York City

League of Women Voters New York State

New York State Council for the Social Studies

New York State Council of School Superintendents

New York State Grange

New York State Parent Teachers Association

New York State Rural Schools Association

New York State School Boards Association

New York State Social Studies Supervisory Association

New York State United Teachers

Next Generation Politics

The Education Trust - New York

United Federation of Teachers

Westchester Putnam School Boards Association

Women Creating Change (WCC)



Jason Clark, Metropolitan Black Bar Association

Shira Epstein, The City College of New York

Brett Levy, University at Albany, SUNY

Ioana Literat, Teachers College, Columbia University

Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, Teachers College, Columbia University

Laura Smith, Teachers College, Columbia University


Youth Members

  • DemocracyReady NY includes and honors the voices and leadership of young people in its work. Its youth members —11th and 12th graders from diverse regions across the state—join forces with the other Coalition individuals and organizations to ensure that New York students are fully prepared to participate in the civic activities and decision-making that affect them and their peers, as well as their families, their communities, and our broader society.

Contact New York State Map

For more information or to help support the DemocracyReady NY Coalition, please contact the Center for Educational Equity at or visit

Senior Staff

Michael A. Rebell, Executive Director and Professor of Law and Educational Practice
Jessica R. Wolff, Director of Policy and Research


Events New York State Map

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