A group of education advocates gathered at Dietz Stadium on Wednesday to rally for more state funding for public schools. A caravan then headed for Albany to take the message to state lawmakers working on New York’s 2013 budget.
The Alliance for Quality Education-led group in Kingston totaled about 20 people, but the organization was expecting the effort to include about 600 students, parents, educators and community members by the time the “Educate NY Now Express” buses got to Albany for a rally.
Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, said the theme of the message being taken to the capital is “A Dream Deferred is a Dream Denied,” a reference to the poetry of Langston Hughes.
“Students don’t get a second chance to get a good education,” Easton said.
Easton said all New York students need educational offerings that include Advanced Placement classes, career and technical training, art and music. He said, however, that state cuts in school aid during the last four years, in addition to New York’s new tax cap, have created a situation in which needy school districts are forced to cut what they already have just to keep their heads above water.
State funding for public schools in New York is $5.5 billion below the target created for what is known as the “foundation formula,” which was designed to more fairly distribute education money in the aftermath of a 2007 court decision that the Campaign for Fiscal Equity won against the state, Easton said.
The decision found New York had been violating its children’s rights under the state Constitution to a basic, sound education.
Easton said current state aid to public schools is below 2008-09 levels.
Maureen Bowers, a member of the Kingston school board, said she participated in Wednesday’s event because state legislators can become detached from the impact their budget decisions have on school districts like Kingston, such as staff reductions, the loss of programs and larger class sizes.
Woodstock resident Diana Kuster spoke of the Kingston school district’s recent closure of Frank L. Meagher Elementary School and plans to close Zena, Anna Devine, and Sophie Finn elementary schools in June among the impacts of what the group called inadequate state aid. She also cited the Rondout Valley school district’s closure of Rosendale Elementary School, the Marlboro school district’s fiscal crisis that could lead to closing of two schools, the Onteora school district’s grade reconfiguration and the elimination of technology, art and home economics classes for Ellenville middle school students.