Before launching her campaign for governor, Cynthia Nixon was best known for her role on HBO's "Sex and the City." But to education advocates who lobby in Albany, Nixon has been a force in the push to increase school funding in New York.
The Alliance for Quality Education has been a thorn in the side of Governor Andrew Cuomo, pushing him to fulfill the terms of a legal ruling over funding for high-needs school districts. Cuomo and his administration have disputed there is still a debt related to that case.
"Governor Cuomo has got a very bad record on school funding and education issues in general," said AQE Executive Director Billy Easton. "We have called out truth to power and that has put him in a bad light numerous times."
Nixon's candidacy has shone a light on the group and its push for more school aid, especially foundation aid, which is money that goes toward direct school district expenditures. This year, advocates called for a $1.3 billion increase in foundation aid.
"No more excuses. We've lost a generation of children -- 12 years and no funding," said AQE Advocacy Director Zakiyah Ansari. "So a billion dollars sounds great, but foundation aid is what brings the equity, and that's the conversation we want to have."
And as lawmakers last month were negotiating the budget with Cuomo, Nixon made her first appearance in Albany as a candidate alongside AQE.
"We've been up here numerous times over the last 12 years and we've never had such a gaggle of press," Ansari said. "Even when she's with us, we've never had this much press."
The Cuomo administration has defended the governor's record on education, pointing to the record increases in school spending during his tenure. New York will spend $26 billion on education this fiscal year. Cuomo says the real issue is spending per school and the lack of transparency.
"New York City gets this percent, Long Island gets this percent, and upstate gets this percent. It's worked that way for 20 years," the governor said. "And how do they distribute the money school by school? Nobody knows."
Cuomo successfully negotiated a budget provision that will reveal per-school spending and highlight potential inequities.