The concourse level of the state Legislative Office Building rocked today in Albany as hundreds of parents, students and educators joined in a rally to save 4201 schools.
The 4201 schools are private, state-supported schools, serving the education needs of children who are deaf, blind and/or physically disabled.
NYSUT members work in seven of the 11 schools, where their specialized training and experience have made them life-changers for thousands of students through the years.
NYSUT represents educators at the Henry Viscardi School in Nassau County, St. Mary's School for the Deaf in Buffalo, the Rochester School for the Deaf, the Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf in Nassau, the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, the Lavelle School for the Blind in the Bronx and the New York State School for the Deaf in White Plains.
Those seven - and four other schools - face a funding crisis because of budget proposals made by Gov. Cuomo. The most severe threat comes from his proposal eliminating the direct share appropriation for the work done in each school - and would instead rely on a process that would shift the onus of costs for educating deaf, blind and physically disabled students to local school districts - at a time when districts are already facing draconian cuts.
"Our state is world-famous for the quality of education we provide these students," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, who is leading the union's advocacy on their issues. "These students, their families and our members deserve better than cuts to their highly successful programs."
"Because we begin with our students at the primary level, and go with them through high school, it's like we are a second home and second family for them," said Mary Diyanni, a 40-year teacher at the New York School for the Deaf and the local union's vice president.
"We have the resources to do the job best," said her co-worker Neil Davino, a 31-year teacher at the school and local union president. "Our staff is educated and certified to educate the population we serve."
Finding the resources to fund education on every level - from K-12 to higher education, and special schools like the 4201s - has brought the state's revenue issues to the forefront of the public debate as the April 1 budget deadline looms. The issue of the state's wealthiest citizens paying a fair share of taxes is a hot issue at the Capitol, as legislators wrestle with insufficient resources to meet important public needs.
As Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti from Westchester told the cheering crowd, "We should not be concerned about the finances of millionaires, we should be concerned about the future of our own kids. Millionaires should not get tax cuts when kids are being deprived of opportunities."
NYSUT has staked out its position, including a new round of ads pounding away at the absurdity of destroying educational opportunities for students and laying off thousands of teachers so wealthy New Yorkers can continue their tax breaks.