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Now is not the time to be cutting back on education, more than 100 BOCES representatives and supporters told lawmakers Tuesday.
Governor David Paterson is proposing to cut an unprecedented $1.4 billion from K-12 public education, a dire prospect that compelled a variety of BOCES teachers, students, administrators and supporters to press lawmakers to keep up their support for schools and invest in children.
"When districts get cut, it hurts all of us," Joe Mix told Assemblyman Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga. Mix teaches in the Questar III BOCES, which serves students in Rensselaer, Columbia and Greene counties.
"Even though it looks like BOCES is not cut from the governor's proposed budget, if school aid to districts is cut dramatically, the bottom line will still be that BOCES programs in career and technical education, special education and alternative education will be severely impacted," he said.
Katelynn Widmer, a senior in the criminal justice program at Questar III, told Assemblyman Peter D. Lopez, R-Schoharie, that she would have dropped out from school if it wasn't for the BOCES program.
Dan Healy, a teacher in the criminal justice program at the Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES, said his classes achieve a 100 percent graduation rate. Without BOCES, he told lawmakers, he feared students would not finish high school. Healy, a teacher for eight years, was making his first advocacy trip to Albany.
The Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES serves 25 school districts in western New York. It estimates that if the districts experience the $21.4 million in school aid cuts the governor proposes, up to 700 jobs will be lost regionwide.
Leaders of the Tri-County BOCES Education Association also made their case to western New York Assemblyman Mark Schroeder, D-South Buffalo.
"BOCES is an important regional resource,"said John LoBianco, the local president. "With the proposed cuts, districts will have to pull students out of our valuable programs. We're here to advocate for those students."
"BOCES is the solution to many problems," member Mark Chadderdon told Schroeder. "Restoring funding will help every district and thousands of students."
LoBianco and Chadderdon, along with the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus District Superintendent Robert Guiffreda, were trying to avert the loss of hundreds of teaching jobs in the 27 school districts in their region.
Besides career and tech, special education and alternative educational programs, the 37 BOCES Regional Information Centers support more than 1 million users and 350,000 work stations in school districts across the state and provide more than 35,000 students with services in adult basic education, GED preparation and English as a Second Language.