Teachers’ Organizations Rally to End Budget Cuts

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.”

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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.

Will Nassau County Hit the Brakes on Living Wage?

July 26, 2010

NEW YORK – The battle over the Living Wage Law is expected to heat up again today in Nassau County on Long Island. A special session of country lawmakers has been called to determine whether a one-dollar-an hour pay increase can be put on hold. Nassau County enacted its Living Wage Law in 2007, and the final pay increase is supposed to take effect on August 1. Home health agencies says they can’t afford it right now, with some companies claiming it could lead to layoffs.

Lisa Tyson with the Long Island Progressive Coalition points out, though, that companies have not backed up those claims.

“There have been several hearings, and what is clear is that the industry cannot prove that there’s going to be job losses. The living wage is actually paid for through the contracts, so it’s in there and they don’t want to give it to the workers who really deserve it.”

The current living wage is $11.50 an hour, with benefits. The measure before Nassau County lawmakers would block an increase to $12.50 an hour that is supposed to take effect next week.

Home health care agencies claim they’ve been caught in the middle, and now are having a hard time functioning because of state budget cuts.

Tyson says these companies already caught a break when the pay raise was stretched out over a period of years, and now it is time to pay up.

“I believe that there is a compromise bill to have the pay increase start in February, but that’s just not fair. These people are making poverty wages and they work for the county basically through a contact. It is just incorrect and wrong to do this to people.”

The home health industry employs about 5,000 workers in Nassau County.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service – NY