On Thursday, an educational rally dubbed a “Take Back Our School Rally” will be held atJ.F.K. Middle School in Comsewogue School District where speakers in the educational community will talk about challenges facing schools and discuss solutions. One of the main issues facing districts is the loss of state aid combined with the mandated tax cap.
The events are being supported by the Long Island Progressive Coalition and the advocacy group Educate NY Now.
According to Danielle Asher, a campaign coordinator for the LIPC, in this area Mt. Sinai district lost nearly $6.5 million, Comsewogue lost almost $13.5 million and Port Jefferson lost $2 million, all over the last three years.
She said school districts on both sides of the spectrum are feeling the effects of a loss of state funding.
“We wanted to be out there telling those stories now, and get ahead of the next budget,” she said. “We want [the governor] to hear from parents, advocates, school board members, principals and teachers saying, ‘This is what we’re feeling now, we can’t take anymore.’”
Chad Rodack, campaign coordinator for Educate NY Now, said the organization is treating the tax cap effects as not only an educational crisis, but also as a constitutional one.
“The state constitution guarantees a sound basic education for every student in the state,” he said. “… Now, schools are running low on reserve money, so they’re cutting year in and year out. Since there’s a constitutional obligation, and our districts aren’t able to provide that sound basic education, then the legislators and the governor have not upheld their oaths of office.”
This spring, Port Jefferson district passed a budget that stayed within the tax cap but bothComsewogue and Mt. Sinai saw their budgets go down when they tried to garner enough votes to pierce the state mandated cap. Both districts reintroduced new budgets under the cap that passed on the second go-around.
State Assemb. Steve Englebright, D-Setauket, who voted in favor of the tax cap, said the legislation is important because it serves as a reassurance to those who are struggling that there is understanding of their situation.
“There are good reasons, I think, in the present climate to have a tax cap,” he said. “… As circumstances change, there is an appropriate time that needs to be found to reassess. I’m not sure we’re at that point at this particular moment.”
However, Englebright said, just because the tax cap may be needed at the present time doesn’t mean it should permanently remain on the books.
“I think that we as elected officials need to remain aware of changes that generally mark improved economic realities,” he said. “Should we as electeds continue to listen? Absolutely.”
Locally, the rally will take place in Comsewogue School District at J.F.K. Middle School on Oct. 25 at 4 p.m. Residents of Mt. Sinai and Port Jefferson School Districts are invited to attend.