March 04, 2010

Yonkers: Pre-K, high school sports on the chopping block

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT News Wire
Caption: Lincoln High School student president Christa Quiles said state aid cuts would take away inspirational teachers. "I feel every student has had at least one educator who has inspired us to pursue our dreams," she said. Photo by Maria R. Bastone.

Educators, parents and politicians gathered at Lincoln High School in Yonkers as part of the statewide "Day of Action" to speak with one voice and tell Albany: Please don't let the governor's nightmare budget plan become a reality.

Who will feel the pain if state aid to Yonkers is cut $22.3 million? The 4-year-old who will not be able to experience pre-kindergarten if the popular program is eliminated next fall; the newest classroom teacher, one of an estimated 436 employees slated for layoff; and the student athlete who is counting on a college scholarship that would disappear along with the high school sports program.

"We cannot allow this to happen, we cannot accept these draconian cuts to education," said Yonkers Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio. "We simply cannot cut the promise of tomorrow."

"We're stealing their education, their future, the knowledge they need to succeed," said Yonkers Federation of Teachers President Pat Puleo, surrounded by more than a dozen high-achieving Lincoln High School students. She said the state's fourth largest school district is already reeling from the elimination of about 200 job cuts this year, despite an enrollment surge of about 1,000 students.

"Closing a school when enrollment is increasing is not typical, but it may very well be necessary," Pierorazio said.

The media event included a wide range of representatives from the city council, county Legislature, school board, the Parent-Teacher Council, labor unions and management.

"The loss of pre-K is non-negotiable," said Kelly Chiarella, president of the Parent-Teacher School Association Council. "The loss of teachers is also not-negotiable. Our children deserve better."

Many spoke out on behalf of sparing the district's 1,650-student pre-K program, which has had remarkable academic success, according to a 10-year longitudinal study conducted by the district. The study documented a statistically significant 13- to 16-percentage point advantage on grade 3-8 ELA and math assessments for students who participated in Yonkers pre-K. Pierorazio called pre-K "the great equalizer."

Lincoln High School student president Christa Quiles said state aid cuts would take away inspirational teachers. "I feel every student has had at least one educator who has inspired us to pursue our dreams," she said.