September 26, 2011

After massive cuts, Yonkers students are losing out

Author: Carl Korn
Source: NYSUT Communications
Caption: Yonkers Federation of Teachers President Pat Puleo and NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta were on hand to speak out against school cuts and layoffs. Photo by Carl Korn. MORE PHOTOS.

One day before Yonkers' schools opened their doors, Patricia Elliott got a pink slip.

Elliott's job teaching science at Palisade Preparatory School is one of about 370 teaching positions eliminated in Yonkers over the last two years - cuts that are devastating the city school district on the outskirts of New York City.

Yonkers Federation of Teachers President Patricia Puleo and NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta held a news conference Monday to outline the painful impact of $1.3 billion in education cuts on Yonkers, which has a solid record of student achievement despite being a low-wealth, large city district.

Two years of deep cuts, Puleo said, means 10 school psychologists for the district's 26,000 students, a 2,600-to-1 ratio. In addition, guidance counselors have to serve 650 or more students, while art, physical education and music are delivered intermittently. Librarians have been totally eliminated from the city's elementary schools, and interscholastic sports - even cheerleading - have been cut to the bone or cut out totally.

"We are in crisis," Puleo said. "Education is a civil right, but the children of Yonkers don't have full-time librarians, guidance counselors, reading teachers or the classes they need. They are losing out on a guarantee made to other children all over New York -- the right to a great education.

Pallotta noted the education cuts to Yonkers - and other districts - come as state leaders are letting legislation to expire that, in effect, will give $5 billion in tax breaks to the richest 1 percent of New Yorkers.

"These cuts hurt kids," Pallotta said. "We need to get our priorities in order."

Pallotta and Puleo were joined at the news conference by representatives of the Yonkers PTA, other local NYSUT leaders from Westchester County; and representatives of state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assemblyman Michael Spano.