Fed up with budget cuts, hundreds of teachers and union activists rallied in Buffalo last month to protest three consecutive years of education cuts that have slashed state aid to public schools by $3.2 billion, causing massive layoffs, increased class sizes and cuts to vital programs.
"We have to keep standing up for what our students need. You've come tonight, you advocate every day, and now is the time to turn a moment into a movement," said NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi, who marched alongside union members (see top photo, center) from Main Street to city hall.
Buffalo hosts NYSUT's annual Representative Assembly later this month.
"We are our students' voices," said Kristin Sterling, shown to the right of Iannuzzi, above.
"Public education must be saved and we are the people who can and will make that happen. Our students are being fleeced and our country is being robbed. We cannot be silent," Sterling is president of the Niagara Orleans Board of Cooperative Educational Services TA and a NYSUT Board member.
About 3,000 teaching positions have been lost to budget cuts in western New York.
JoAnn Sweat, president of Buffalo Education Support Team, which represents 800 teacher aides, teaching assistants and health care aides, said her union has endured devastating cuts.
"Three years ago, there were 1,000 members working in the classrooms alongside the teachers. Since then, we have suffered layoffs every school year and most haven't been called back to work," she said. "The loss of all the support staff means the students have to go without help. Students who need extra help should get it," she said.