March 2013 Issue
February 25, 2013

Activists go into high gear for education funding

Author: Betsy Sandberg
Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Paul Farfaglia, co-president of the Jordan Elbridge TA and a NYSUT Board member, makes the case to Assemblyman Al Stirpe Jr., D-Syracuse, that the governor's budget proposal falls far short in providing the funds required to provide New York state children with a quality education. Farfaglia was among dozens of activists who visited state lawmakers in their district offices. Photo by Steve Jacobs.

Precious little time is left to convince lawmakers that they need to craft a budget that will provide students with a quality education.

"Every member needs to contact their lawmakers and urge them to provide the resources our workplaces desperately need," said NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi.

Hundreds of activists from K-12 schools, colleges and universities, hospitals and health care centers, libraries, BOCES and teacher centers plan to be a part of the union's Committee of 100 advocacy day on March 5, which will include a parade for public education around the state Capitol. Watch for details.

That day of action will be followed by the annual lobbying effort of the United Federation of Teachers on March 6 and higher education activists lobbying on March 12.

Those efforts will be needed as lawmakers signaled the strong possibility of adopting a budget by March 21.

"Our schools and communities need everything our members can muster," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta. "We need to convince our lawmakers now of the need to help, because if the budget passes the way it's written now, our K-12 schools will have $100 million less to educate students than four years ago and our college campuses are even worse off."

Political action coordinators across the state are eager for the upcoming lobbying efforts to press the case for more funding for early childhood, K-12, BOCES, teacher centers and higher education. After laying the groundwork with lawmakers last month, they now have even more details about how shortfalls in state aid combined with a destructive property tax cap are perpetuating educational inequality.

School cuts from last year still haven't healed, Cheryl Hughes, a Kenmore Teachers Association member, told Assemblyman Sean Ryan during advocacy efforts in February.

Her school has "lost our gifted and talented program, eliminated a remedial/study period and have much larger class sizes in the middle school."

Hughes, and education advocates, told the Buffalo Democrat about how districts in western New York have had to cut what works for kids "in order to fund Pearson, Doctrina and other test makers," she said.

"The money we are spending on testing should be going into technology for our classrooms. We are preparing our students with paper and pens when they need the quick access to technology to be prepared for the future."

Sparrow Tobin of the Washingtonville TA said Assembly members James Skoufis, D-Chester, and Annie Rabbitt, R-Goshen, "were disheartened to hear about the detrimental effects the tax cap is having on our schools and especially about the 35,000 educators we have lost statewide over the last four years," Tobin said.

Unfortunately, several schools in Tobin's Orange County region are announcing additional cuts and he will bring specific examples on March 5 on how the cuts will limit opportunities.

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee of Rockland County listened intently when Donna Ramundo of the Nyack TA brought concerns about what years of programming cuts had wrought on area schools.

In Nassau County, Daphna Arm, a member of the Merrick Faculty Association, led a contingent that told lawmakers some districts are cut so far to the bone they are worried about getting enough money to pay their utility bills.

And, the loss of teacher center funding especially stings.

"On Long Island, like elsewhere across the state, these centers have run highly successful programs for teachers to get the relevant, hands-on professional development we need," Arm said. "Where will we turn without them?"