Parents, students and teachers rallied against 20 percent New York state aid cuts to school districts outside the state education building Saturday.
Hundreds turned out Saturday in cities across the state to protest $5.7 billion in cuts to school aid, joining rallies and car caravans in Buffalo, Rochester, Utica, Albany and Kingston.
Protestors outside the State Education Building in Albany carried signs reading "Tax the rich" and "Fund our schools." They want Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose budget department says the state is facing a $30 billion shortfall over the next two years because of COVID-19, to stop the school aid cuts.
Isabel Cardona is the field director of the Citizen Action Youth Committee. She says schools were underfunded even before the pandemic.
"Even before COVID there was some Black, brown, low income and immigrant communities have been disproportionately impacted by decades of disinvestment from their communities. This impacts their ability to thrive and succeed. And we need to see strong leadership from our elected officials to solve these problems. Governor Cuomo, in April, as the CARES act was being passed in Congress, he decided to balance the budget by cutting over one billion dollars from high-needs low income schools. He specifically targeted the most disadvantaged school districts with the most vulnerable students."
City school districts in the Capital Region have already made cuts to their budgets for the upcoming school year. Marina Marcou-O'Malley is Operations and Policy Director of the Alliance for Quality Education. She has two children in Albany schools.
"They cut 222 positions on top of the 150 they had to cut in April or in June, and they're cutting nurses, councilors, school psychologists. They are in the middle of a pandemic where our children have experienced trauma from sickness, from community rebellion, from all of those things, we are sending them back to school and telling them to do more with less in the middle of a pandemic. Where are our priorities? It is critical to fund schools right now when we need extra resources for safety measures, for masks, for more space in our school buildings, for those who actually have the privilege to go in person, our priorities are all over the place. If we can't prioritize our children, who's going to?"
It’s not clear if state lawmakers could come back to Albany to take up the issue before the next session in January. For his part, Gov. Cuomo has suggested the federal government must provide direct aid to states and localities in order to restore the funding.