Update: News Reports
SARANAC LAKE, N.Y. Feb. 28, 2015 - Hundreds of students, parents and educators - led by local, state and national leaders - are bussing it across the North Country Saturday to call out Gov. Andrew Cuomo for embracing a destructive "billionaires' agenda” that would harm students and educators in public schools, colleges and universities.
"All across the North Country, communities are uniting against this disastrous budget, which shortchanges students and the region's public schools and colleges in order to reward the governor's biggest campaign contributors - New York City billionaire hedge fund managers who want to privatize and profit from public education,” said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee.
In addition to Magee, the bus tour will feature remarks by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal and Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education. Organizers said the bus tour will make stops for rallies in:
- PLATTSBURGH: 10 a.m. at Plattsburgh High School, 1 Clifford Drive, Plattsburgh
- MASSENA: 1 p.m. at Massena High School, 84 Nightengale Ave., Massena
- WATERTOWN: 4 p.m. at Indian River High School, 32925, U.S. Route 11, Philadelphia, NY
Magee criticized the governor for undermining democracy by holding school aid hostage, impeding the ability of North Country school boards to develop sound local budgets with adequate community input. She also called out the governor for his "test-and-punish” agenda that more than doubles the weight of standardized tests, and said his proposal to make SUNY campuses compete for limited state funding "smacks of a Hunger Games approach that would hurt campuses that are economic engines in the North Country.”
"Gov. Cuomo needs to put politics aside and focus on the funding our public school students need. That's the governor's job under the New York constitution. Making a difference in the lives of our kids and their families is hard work, particularly as the North Country is still struggling with the effects of the last recession. Instead of scapegoating educators who have devoted themselves to this, I'd ask the governor to listen to them, to visit their classrooms and to support them,” Weingarten added.
"The governor's plans for SUNY are wrong," said Kowal. "UUP is calling on the Legislature to do the right thing for SUNY by rejecting the governor's plans to cut $1.3 million from SUNY's opportunity programs, pushing aside his performance-based funding scheme and protecting our teacher preparation programs and SUNY's public teaching hospitals. The state must stop balancing SUNY's budget on the backs of students and invest in public higher education."
"The 'Call Out Cuomo' tour of the North Country puts yet another spotlight on Cuomo's failure to provide students with their state constitutional right to a 'sound and basic education,'” said Easton. "In his first term, Gov. Cuomo's so-called reform agenda has weakened public schools, forcing them to eliminate quality programs. The agenda has also furthered the inequities between wealthy and high-needs districts and left a trail of broken promises, including his vow to provide high-quality pre-K for the children of upstate New York. It's time for Gov. Cuomo to end his destructive campaign against public education and provide adequate and fair funding to all of our schools and all of our students.”
The bus tour was organized by Jeannette Stapley, a retired teacher from Schroon Lake, and Don Carlisto, a Saranac Lake teacher and political activist. Stapley and Carlisto are members of NYSUT's Board of Directors.
Carlisto said, "The North Country is fighting back, sending a clear message to the governor and our elected legislators that public education is working. The governor's 'test-and-punish' agenda may play with the New York City hedge fund managers who contributed to Cuomo's campaign, but it is failing the test with North Country residents.”
Coalition partners for the bus tour and rallies also include the North Country Alliance for Public Education; the North East Central Labor Council; the Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence Central Labor Council; Champlain Valley Council of Retirees; Franklin-St. Lawrence Educators' Council; and the North Country Coordinating Council of Teachers. Students, parents, educators, school board leaders and local superintendents are also expected to participate.
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.