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LI rallies call for protecting public school funding

Demonstrators demand education justice as they march in

Demonstrators demand education justice as they march in Wyandanch on Saturday, March 4, 2017. Credit: Ed Betz

Long Island teachers and education advocates joined statewide demonstrations Saturday to call for protecting public school funding.

More than 100 teachers, parents and administrators rallied in frigid temperatures in Wyandanch to oppose Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s education budget and the policies of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The Alliance for Quality Education organized the rally, along with eight others in New York City and upstate.

Advocates called for an end to racial inequities and the inequality of underfunded schools that serve minorities and lower-income families. They also sought restoration of the $4.3 billion owed to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a nonprofit that sued the state over fair school funding 10 years ago, and a halt to the Trump administration’s push for private school vouchers and federal education cuts.

In an email Saturday evening, the governor’s office disputed the Campaign for Fiscal Equity’s claim about money being owed, saying: “The contention that ANY money is owed under CFE is wrong. CFE case dealt with NYC schools only.”

“Our students deserve to have access to high quality education,” organizer Bianca A. Villanueva said. “We have to make sure our state legislators hear us. We need strong Senate and Assembly representation to stop the privatization of public schools and restore the funding owed for the last 10 years.”

She said Long Island needs strong representation in Albany to stop Republican legislators’ move to limit public school funding and to push back against Cuomo’s support for charter schools.

Advocates also called for ending Common Core testing, restoring funding to Island school districts, expanding universal pre-K and making state and city universities free for all students.

The rally was followed by a one-mile march to the Wyandanch administration building, with marchers chanting “When public schools are under attack, we strike back.”

Wyandanch school board members urged residents to contact Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and ask him to vote against a school vouchers bill.

Ronald Allen, school board president, said the state still owed the district $18 million.

“We need to send the message to support the school district and make improvements,” Allen said. “This community really needs that money.”

In the email, Cuomo said: “My education budget is the highest in history. It’s $1 billion more than last year. So, some advocacy groups — that’s what they do. They argue, it’s never enough, it’s never enough.”

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