article
October 07, 2016

Advocates deliver pro-education message by foot, bike and more

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT Communications
Reclaim our schools

 

Action and advocacy took many forms as NYSUT members around the state joined with parents, students and community activists for a variety of events marking national “Reclaim Our Schools” Day of Action on Oct. 6.

They walked. They pedaled. They registered college students to vote and documented crumbling classrooms on City University campuses. The universal message was simple: Invest more in public education.

National organizers from the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools said more than 100,000 students, educators, parents and activists in 2,000 schools participated in the national day of action for public education. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democratic Party’s nominee for vice president, joined American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten for a “walk-in” at a Philadelphia school to show his commitment to public education.

Here in New York, activists marked the 10-year anniversary of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) court decision that found the state violated the constitutional rights of millions of New York students by underfunding public schools in Black, Latino and low-income communities. Despite the court ruling, a decade has passed and these communities are still owed nearly $4 billion in funding.

In Rochester, activists gathered at NYSUT’s Union Place regional office to cheer on David Cates, a Buffalo teaching assistant, who is bicycling 300 miles from Buffalo to Albany to make the case for more funding. The “Bike Ride for CFE” tour commemorates the historic school funding case, as Cates and his friend, Eddie Jones, pedal 80 miles a day and collect invoices in communities along the way demanding that the state finally pays up.

Monroe County activists presented a poster-sized mock “bill,” detailing the $164,089,727 owed to the 17 districts in the greater-Rochester area.

“Today, we are reminding everyone that it’s 10 years,” said Angie Rivera, president of the Rochester Association of Professionals. “We need funds to fully fund preK, community schools and reduce class sizes.”

“The children in Monroe County and across the state have waited long enough,” said Andy Jordan, co-president of BOCES United Professionals. “They’ve waited too long.”

Earlier in the trek, Cates, the vice president for Buffalo Education Support Team, collected a similar invoice for $3.5 million in long overdue funding for Batavia City Schools when he stopped and had lunch with high school students.

A number of local unions around the state, including Medina TA in western New York and Webutuck TA in Dutchess County, staged walk-ins before school started to demonstrate solidarity for public education and fair funding.

In Newburgh, students, parents, educators and elected officials and advocates gathered at Tyrone Crabb Park across from Horizons on the Hudson Magnet School to call attention to the $36 million owed to that city school district. The Newburgh school board president and the superintendent joined TA President Stacy Moran in calling for Albany lawmakers to give students the funding they were promised and deserve.

Newburgh TA members were also joined by activists from the Alliance for Quality Education who were in the middle of a 150-mile walk from New York City to Albany, demanding fair funding for public schools. AQE’s week-long walk, which will meet up with Cates’ upstate Bike Ride for CFE, will culminate with a rally in Albany on Tuesday.

NYSUT’s higher education affiliates put a different spin on the AROS Day of Action. Members of Professional Staff Congress at CUNY joined with students and other activists to vividly document crumbling classrooms and campuses. They tweeted photos of leaky ceilings, broken equipment and inadequate classroom spaces, expanding on last year’s #Brokelyn campaign that called attention to CUNY’s serious infrastructure and maintenance needs.

More than a dozen United University Professions chapters at SUNY campuses across the state co-sponsored voter registration drives as their part in the national day of action. UUPers also spread the word about NYSUT’s Pledge to Vote campaign and provided information about public higher education issues at stake in the upcoming elections.