Politics on the Hudson
Robert Jackson, who filed the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit against the state in 1993, led a few hundred demonstrators in a march from Empire State Plaza, where the Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus was holding its annual weekend conference, to the Governor’s Mansion Saturday. They were protesting against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $1.5 billion cut to education in the 2011-12 fiscal year, which starts April 1.
Jackson and other education advocates note that the cut goes against the agreed-upon remedy of pumping $7 billion into schools in the state, including $5.5 billion in operating aid, over four years, starting in 2007. The purpose of the remedy was to ensure that the state meets the constitutional requirement to provide all children with a “sound basic education,” something the courts said New York had not been doing. However, 2007 was the only year the plan was fully funded. Education spending has seen freezes and cutbacks since then because of the state’s fiscal problems. With Cuomo’s proposed cut, the time to meet the requirements of the plan would be extended to 10 years.
Protesters on Saturday included people from Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Schenectady, Syracuse and Yonkers, according to Jackson. They put a sticker that said “Tax the Rich” on the sign on the front gate that identified the property as the Governor’s Mansion. The rally was organized by the Alliance for Quality Education
Jackson said at the rally that he was in Albany “to send a message to our governor, Andrew Cuomo, that your budget cuts to education will be devastating to the children of New York City.”
He walked 150 miles to Albany in 2003 to protest the lack of a “sound basic education,” he said in a statement. “It is unconscionable for Governor Cuomo to balance the budget on the backs of our children—their future is at stake. How can he be setting our school children back while offering tax cuts to New York’s highest income earners? This budget would take back every dollar in CFE funding ever delivered by the state. I ask all the New York State legislators to stand up for our children and protect their right to quality schools.”
Lea Webb, a Binghamton City Council member, said during Saturday’s rally that Wall Street’s profits last year were $135 billion in the nation’s “worst economic recession. And we have the audacity as a community as a state to ask our children to sacrifice their future. Is that fair?”
“No,” the crowd shouted.