Hundreds of parents, students and teachers from all over Long...

Hundreds of parents, students and teachers from all over Long Island converged on Sachem High School East on Thursday night for a rally against proposed cuts in education. (Feb. 17, 2011) Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

More than 1,800 people descended on Sachem High School East Thursday night to protest the governor's proposed $1.5-billion cuts to state education, with the crowd spilling into hallways and the parking lot and latecomers clogging nearby roads.

Teachers, parents and children, who occupied every seat in the school's 958-person auditorium, jumped to their feet, hoisting banners at the rally that said: "Don't erase our progress, invest in our schools" and "The tax cap is crap."

Long Island could lose $250 million in funding if Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's cuts stick.

Amelia Flaumenhaft, 10, a fifth-grader at Cherry Avenue Elementary in the Sayville school district, said she feared cuts could hobble the state's public schools, leaving students without the skills they need to enter the workforce.

"The entire economy will fall," she said. "No one will know how to do anything."

Like many of those at Thursday night's rally, community organizer Danielle Asher said she wanted to send a message to Cuomo to undo the cuts.

Many protesters said they want Albany to renew the so-called millionaire's tax - a temporary surcharge on the incomes of New Yorkers who earn $200,000 or more - that could take some of the financial burden off local schools.

"Why should the wealthiest New Yorkers be getting tax cuts while the budget is being balanced on the backs of our kids?" Asher said.

Cuomo opposes the tax and has suggested districts tap reserves to cover the losses.

Officials at Sachem, Long Island's second largest school district, have told some 450 staffers - including 375 teachers - that they could be out of work at the end of the school year because of the decrease in state aid and rising personnel costs.

School districts from across the Island, including William Floyd, Center Moriches, Herricks and Amityville, have issued similar warnings.

District officials say it's too early to tell just how many teachers won't be back next year, but they believe some layoffs are likely if the cuts stand.

Sarajane Ilamathi, a special-education teacher at the Three Village Central School District in East Setauket, said a decrease in state aid could bring a reduction in academic intervention and crucial reading programs.

"I'm really afraid for the future of our children," she said. "We cannot keep cutting and cutting and taking away the opportunity for them to become competitive in an increasingly competitive world."

With Matthew Chayes

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

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