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A tutor, parent and education advocate, Twiggy Billue already sees evidence of the lack of funding in schools. Many students who come for extra help use photocopies of texts as there are not always enough books to go around. She can't imagine what will happen if Governor Paterson's proposed $11 million in cuts to Syracuse city schools is approved.
"We need to make sure our children receive an adequate, fair and proper education," Billue said. "We are rich in talent and diversity in this city but not rich in funding the educational system."
Billue served as emcee at a "Children First: No Cuts to Education" rally. More than 40 people, including two groups of youth dancers, gathered at a rally held at Edward Smith School in Syracuse as part of the statewide "Day of Action" events.
Parents, students, community activists and educators from city schools and several surrounding school districts talked about the devastation Paterson's proposed $1.4 billion in cuts statewide would mean for schools as legislative staffers, city school leaders and area lawmakers listened.
Nazirah, a 15-year-old student at Nottingham High School worried about losing her favorite teacher and the possibility of sports being cut. "Track is very important to me. It's a fun way to stay in shape and I love to run," she said. Participation in sports also helps her maintain good grades. "Being on a team gives me the motivation to do well. It would be a real letdown if sports are cut."
Paul Farfaglia, president of the Jordan Elbridge Teachers Association, said schools have already been forced to make enough tough choices. "We've been responsible. We don't have any fat to cut," Farfaglia said, adding the programs school will be forced to cut next will impact the most needy students.
When she began her education career 18 years ago, Beth Chetney made a promise to provide a quality education and be an advocate for the students in her care.
"I have not broken my promise," said Chetney, who is also president of the Baldwinsville Teachers Association. "Today I am reminded of the broken promises here in New York state. We cannot sit idly by and watch our children become sacrificial lambs. Programs that support student success are being cut, class sizes are increasing and quality educators are being sent to the unemployment line."
Suzanne Slack, CFO for Syracuse city schools said even with plans to cut upwards of150 positions, the district is facing an $18 million gap in funds. That worries parents like Barry O'Brien whose four children attend the K-8 Ed Smith school.
"Yesterday my daughter sat in the car happily singing a song she learned in music class. That was a magic moment. With these cuts, that magic will be taken away."