Some 500 Yonkers students accompanied by parents, educators and other public employees bounced off buses and climbed the Million Dollar Staircase at the Capitol today to demand in ringing chants and cheers that lawmakers "save our schools."
Last year, Yonkers public schools faced a catastrophe when they discovered an accounting error left the system with a $44 million budget gap for 2014-15. To remedy the error, the governor and the state provided $28 million to help close the gap, but this year, the state budget did not provide the $28 million needed to continue to help close the deficit.
"NYSUT stands in solidarity with one of the best cities in New York state!" said President Karen Magee. "We need to get a commitment from lawmakers," she said, to provide the funding that will allow Yonkers schools to continue sports, music and the arts, and to provide guidance counselors, social workers and librarians.
Yonkers Federation of Teachers President Pat Puleo seconded Magee's demand: "That woman is a friend and, secondly, a teacher but, more importantly, a mom who knows how important it is to have a good education for her children!"
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta introduced several legislators at the rally, all of who promised to make good.
Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, D-Mt. Vernon, said, "We have always come to the aid of Yonkers and we're not going to stop doing that now."
Assembly Higher Education Chair Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan said: "We can give our students what they deserve, what all children deserve."
New Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan, R-East Northport, said, "I believe in education. I believe in Yonkers. I believe in every school in the state of New York. We have to fully fund our schools."
Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, D-Yonkers, said: "We have an opportunity here to get it right, to get it right for you. … We will make sure that you get what you need." She exhorted the crowd to, "turn this Million Dollar Staircase into a 28 million dollar staircase!"
Yonkers was truly united for this emergency event, with representatives of the Yonkers PTA, CSEA, Teamsters and firefighters and police unions all in attendance. Mayor Mike Spano, the City Council and the schools administration also were there.
Said Karen Beltran, Yonkers Council of PTAs leader, "We are here because our children deserve better and we are tired of having to beg for money every year!"