A group of students, teachers and parents called Save Long...

A group of students, teachers and parents called Save Long Island Schools protests the Foundation Aid Formula, at a Rally for Equity in Education Funding in front of the Duryea State Building in Hauppauge. (March 18, 2012) Credit: Jeremy Bales

Hundreds of parents, students and community leaders rallied Sunday outside a state office building in Hauppauge, demanding that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo provide Long Island's schools with funding in proportion to what the region pays in taxes.

"This rally today is a call to action," said Bonnie Buckley, an organizer of the Rally for Equitable Funding for Education, as she stood on the steps of the Duryea State Office Building, home to regional offices for the state Department of Education. "We cannot rest until our elected officials -- with our community -- secure the quality education that our children deserve and that we already pay for."

Buckley, an East Islip parent and a member of the grassroots group Save Long Island Schools, spoke to about 300 demonstrators who wore school colors and waved signs that read, "Give us our fair share" and "Education cuts never heal."

Most demonstrators wore red clothing, representing the East Islip school district, but there were school colors for other districts, too, including South Huntington, Sayville, East Rockaway and Middle Country.

The group said Cuomo's proposed budget for 2012-13 provides $4,440 per Long Island student on average, about 30 percent below what students in other parts of the state receive, while Island residents contribute the "lion's share" of tax money.

The group says Long Island schools will enroll about 17 percent of students in the state in 2012-13 but will receive just 12 percent of state aid as proposed by Cuomo.

Local schools are in danger of cutting classes and extracurricular programs as well as shortening the school day, the demonstrators said.

"The thought of not having music and not having sports . . . . it scares me," said Raymond O'Connor, 18, an East Islip High School student who participates in school musicals and is a member of the cross-country team. "These clubs have prepared me for the rest of my life."

Representatives for Cuomo did not respond Sunday to requests for comment.

State Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Assemb. Philip Boyle (R-Bay Shore) were on hand to advocate for proportionate funding and against what demonstrators called "unfunded mandates."

"We send so much more to Albany and D.C. than we get back in return," Zeldin said, adding in a comment directed to state and federal leaders later, "If it's such a good idea to propose a mandate on education, pay for it."

Aileen D'Addario, an East Islip resident and a teacher at South Huntington's Walt Whitman High School, brought three of her children to the rally: Julianna, 5; Matthew, 6; and Thomas, 9.

"I'm devastated . . . . not just as a teacher, but also as a parent," she said of the possibility of cuts that may include half-days of kindergarten for Julianna when she begins next fall. "It's the kids who are going to suffer."

Julianna carried a sign that read, "Don't shortcut our education."

The rally was to start Save Long Island Schools Advocacy Week, during which organizers encourage residents to lobby Albany to increase funding for local schools by calling and writing their legislators.

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