Chanting “Banks got the gold mine, the people got the shaft,” “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” and waving signs calling for living wage jobs, affordable housing, affordable schools and universal Pre-K, labor and community groups rallied outside the Bank of America office in Great Neck to call attention the growing wealth gap in New York State and to call for investment of state dollars in schools and communities, not tax breaks for the largest banks, as Governor Cuomo is proposing.
(Albany, N.Y.) 1200 parents and students from across the state were joined by elected officials, clergy, teachers and community organizations in a rally against the proposal by Governor Cuomo to enact $1.5 billion in cuts to schools combined with $4.6 billion in tax cuts for wealthy New Yorkers. The rally, at the Albany Armory, was followed by a march to the Capitol and Legislative Office Building and lobby visits with legislators. Governor Cuomo’s cuts are the largest ever proposed in the history of New York State, the tax cuts for the state’s highest income earners are supported by the Senate Republican Majority as well as the Governor. Polls show that three-quarters of New Yorkers oppose the education cuts and two-thirds of New Yorkers oppose tax cuts for high income earners. If the cuts are enacted, schools across the state will need to get rid of thousands of teachers, guidance counselors and librarians, cut arts, sports, music, college and career prep courses and basic educational services. School closings are also proposed in districts across the state as a result of the proposed cuts. The rally was sponsored by the Alliance for Quality Education, Citizen Action of New York, New York Communities for Change, New York City Coalition for Educational Justice, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Metro Justice of Rochester, Make the Road New York, and the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.
“Education is the most fundamental obligation government has to society’s children. If we have to move mountains to make sure our children have a quality education, then that’s what we’ll do. I’m asking ALL elected officials to step up and uphold what the Campaign for Fiscal Equity is all about. A budget crisis is never an excuse to turn our backs on our kids,” said New York Council Education Chairman Robert Jackson, Lead Plaintiff in Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.
“The Governor’s budget is a travesty for New York’s students, particularly poor children and children of color who have been systematically disadvantaged for years. It strips away the initial investments of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity promise and makes it significantly harder for them to receive their Constitutional right to an opportunity to learn,” said Dr. John Jackson, President and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education.
“Overwhelmingly New Yorkers disagree with Governor Cuomo’s record setting cuts to schools and with the plan by the Governor and the Senate Majority to give the wealthiest New Yorkers a tax cut,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “Tax cuts for the rich, and massive school cuts for our kids? It’s nonsensical.”
“A $24 million cut to Buffalo City schools will mean that our district may be forced to eliminate instruction to students in their native language, a program offered by bilingual aides to %12 of students. Too many children that rely heavily on this and other programs to achieve their dreams of on-time graduation will be let down if Governor Cuomo’s tax break to the wealthy makes it in the final budget,” said Bryon McIntyre, of Citizen Action of New York, a parent from Buffalo.
”It’s irresponsible for the Governor to balance the budget on the backs of those of us who need funding the most, while allowing the wealthiest New Yorkers continue to ride the wave of prosperity. We demand that he make them pay their fair share so that teachers can keep their jobs and resources and programs can be provided for our children so they can be college and career ready!” said Ocynthia Williams, a New York City parent and member of the Coalition for Educational Justice.
“The governor’s education budget proposals are well far off from what most of us believe and know to be right for our children. I am optimistic however that this governor, which we elected, will listen, and he will get our message, which we must deliver loud and clear, I do believe we have a governor who understands the value of a sound education, and will provide the appropriate funding to make sure our children really do not get left behind,” said Assemblyman N. Nick Perry of Brooklyn, Deputy Majority Leader and Chairman of the NYS Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators. “We must commit to our children from pre-K through college. I stand together with the many concerned parents that traveled to our state capital today, and assure them that I will tenaciously advocate on their behalf and work towards passing an education budget that provides every single one of our children with not just a sound, basic education – but a first-class, quality education that will help them be successful in life and firmly plant their feet on the path to success.”
“Working families and communities of color like the ones I represent in the Bronx are being disproportionately impacted by proposed budget cuts to education funding and crucial state services. They are the ones that send their children to public schools and depend on English as a second language programs and special education programs that are facing drastic cuts. My neighbors understand the need to sacrifice during tough times, but we cannot ask them to bear the brunt of these budget cuts and then give a tax cut to the wealthiest New Yorkers. We have to work toward a budget that is about shared responsibility and shared sacrifice – minimizing cuts to education funding,” said Senator Gustavo Rivera of the Bronx.
“Last year’s massive education budget cuts meant a loss of lost teachers, educational staff and programs that students need to be college and career ready, such as after school, tutoring, math, reading and English as a second language. Now, Governor Cuomo’s budget proposes to take an additional $1.5 billion from school children. How much more can we take and still expect our students to excel?” said Marie Pierre, New York Communities for Change board member.
“I am delighted to join with other religious leaders in support of the AQE and CEJ fight to challenge the Governor and legislators that the state’s financial crises should not be solved by destroying the communities that are most in need and vulnerable. We urge Albany legislators not to cut Education, Senior Services and Healthcare,” said Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Churches United to Save and Heal.
“It is unthinkable that we would continue to break the promise we made in 2007 to our schools and the children they teach to properly fund our low-and middle-income districts in order to give the multi-millionaires and billionaires of our state a tax break. That new yacht can wait — kindergarten only happens once. Most New Yorkers are clear on what’s more important,” said Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton of Ithaca.
“When politicians demagogue about public servants, their pensions, collective bargaining or other hard earned benefits, it is our democracy that is being attacked. This must stop. Tax the rich!” said Senator Bill Perkins of Manhattan.
“Allowing the rich to benefit at the expense of school children will mean that so many of our children will face heart break while the rich welcome a $1 billion tax break and continue to become wealthy. The state budget should be balanced in a way that allows everyone to pay their fair share and the only way to do this is to extend the millionaire’s tax,” said Javier Valdés, Deputy Director Make the Road the Road New York.
“With a $1.5 billion cut in aid to schools, now is not the time for a tax cut for the state’s wealthiest,” said Senator Jose Peralta of Queens. “This is not about creating a new tax or raising taxes. This is about shared sacrifice. Balancing the budget will require many difficult choices. Extending the surcharge will not be one of them.”
“We need to make sure that people in every community on Long Island realize how damaging these cuts will be to their children. Every district is looking at cuts. In some districts the students will be losing an opportunity for a second language. Others it will mean no pre-k program at all. What will happen to my granddaughter when there is no program offered for her?” said Amparo Sadler, Central Islip grandmother and Long Island Progressive Coalition member.
“The Committee to Save NY has it backwards. The best investment we can make is in the people of NY, especially our children. Give our kids the education they need and our communities, and all of NY, will flourish. Committee to Save NY? Real Estate moguls and Wall St. Executives? I am not impressed. I would be more impressed if they were saying, ‘Yes. These are tough times and we will help. We believe in the people of NY.’ When times are tough, everyone has to pull together. That includes the wealthiest among us. What makes this state great is the belief in the value of every New Yorker, and the potential for each person to do great things, a good education is key to that,” said Cathy Fahey, 7th Ward Councilmember, Albany.