Article by: Tracy Diamond
An organization held a rally outside of South Ocean Middle School Wednesday to share stories and speak out against budget cuts to Long Island public schools.
The Long Island Education Coalition (LIEC), the Long Island Progressive Coalition and the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) teamed up to voice their disagreement with the $1.3 billion budget cut.
Aside from being held in front of the middle school, the rally was not affiliated with the Patchogue-Medford School District.
“Our message today is to let Governor [Andrew] Cuomo and the state legislator know that school cuts hurt our kids,” AQE Community Organizer Danielle Asher said. “Three weeks into the school year, we’re feeling those effects, whether it’s pre-k or kindergarten programs being cut to half day, or sports programs.”
According to Asher, the main areas of loss have been to after school programs, athletics, and advanced placement courses.
“The Patchogue Medford school district has been hit very hard, as well as many surrounding districts like William Floyd, Longwood, and Brentwood, so we wanted to be in the area that was hit the hardest,” Asher said.
LIEC co-chair Vincent Lyons said a survey was sent to the 120 LI school districts and preliminary findings were made out of 101 responses, showing the differences between low wealth and high wealth schools.
“The state aid cuts had a direct, negative impact on the lower wealth districts- class sizes, AP courses, career and tech- they had to reduce their programs by 40 percent,” Lyons said. “The high wealth districts, because they’re not dependent on state aid, had no adverse impact at all, they didn’t cut any programs.”
Lyons explained that schools have two streams of funding: tax-based and state aid, and with reductions in both comes losses in low and high wealth districts, but the difference in the amount of cuts between the two is evident.
“What we’re concerned about is the achievement gap, this growing disparity between the haves and have-nots,” Lyons said.
The preliminary findings offer statistics regarding each area of loss faced by low and high wealth districts, the numbers for low wealth significantly higher.
“They have to start protecting our children and putting funding into our public schools,” Asher said.