A broad coalition of parents, educators and business leaders – representing all 47 public school districts from seven Capital Region counties – gathered last night in East Greenbush for an unprecedented advocacy rally titled "Your Public Schools in Fiscal Peril - Running Out of Time and Options.”
1550 people filled an auditorium and an "overflow room" - featured speaker Dr. Rick Timbs challenged Governor Andrew Cuomo's assertion that New York is "ready for business" - explaining that the Class of 2012 got the best education New York schools will ever be able to offer for the foreseeable future - and blasting Cuomo's budgets - saying that as a result, 100 or more local school districts will be fiscally insolvent in a year or two despite laying off teachers and cutting programs.
Assemblyman Pete Lopez labeled New York's education policy "disjointed." Educators argue that Districts have lost $6 billion in state funding over the last three years, which has resulted in cuts to staff and programs. They say some students can't get admitted to a college of their choice because their high school has been forced to drop programs needed for acceptance.
Rick Timbs urged districts and parents to brace for future teacher layoffs - he called for adequate and equitable funding – citing costs, including insurance pensions, that keep going up, noting that school districts are severely restricted when it comes to raising taxes. He argued against dispensation of state aid by "averaging" - explaining each district is unique.
Schenectady Superintendent of Schools Larry Spring told the crowd "The Whiter a district is, the more likely it is to be fully funded." Spring says his district is one of the poorest in the state and Schenectady kids desperately need help in reading and for mental health services.
Educators say Governor Andrew Cuomo's pledge of meaningful mandate relief has failed to become a reality - They want the Gap elimination adjustment eliminated, and they want "truly meaningful" mandate relief. Senator Neil Breslin concedes it is the responsibility of legislators to make sure quality education happens.
Host superintendent Dr. Angela Nagle told the audience they HAVE the power to help, she invited them to attend a February 11th event at Niskayuna High to learn how to advocate for their local schools.