Vigil for public education draws crowd at Kingston High School


Democrat Congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout, holding
“reclaim” sign
among those joining the rally

KINGSTON – Dozens braved near-freezing weather on Broadway outside Kingston High School Thursday afternoon, participating in a Vigil for Public Education, organized statewide by Citizens Action, Alliance for Quality Education, and United Teachers.
The vigil served as a reminder to state policymakers in Albany to remember a 2006 state Court of Appeals victory, which ruled that education cuts had gotten so bad in New York, that school children were being denied their constitutional right to “a sound and basic education.”
In response, $5.5 billion was committed by New York to rectify the inequities in school funding, through so-called “Foundation Aid,” which was intended to even the financial playing field between rich and poor school districts.   That money dried up in the crash of 2008 – $4.9 billion is still “owed” to the students, according to the high court ruling.
Governors Patterson and Cuomo, in 2010 and 2011, instituted a “Gap Elimination Adjustment,” which diverted billions more from the education budget in order to make ends meet elsewhere in state government.
“So here we are in 2016, the state legislature still has not paid back the GEA, and they have not put a penny into Foundation Aid since 2007,” said Alex Deane, Kingston coordinator for Citizen Action.   “That’s why we’re here, to lift up the promise, let them know that we have not forgotten. Schools are not up to standard, and they need Foundation Aid to get there.”  
“We used to have very small classes, so that we could deal appropriately with everybody’s needs,” noted Paula Klonfas, a substitute teacher at KHS. But there’s no money for that now, and the classes have gotten bigger and bigger.  They are being set up to fail,” she warned.
“They’re not pushing our children enough,” agreed Shai Brown, mother of a Bailey Middle School student. “I had a teacher who told me she’s so frustrated, she pretty much comes to school for her check, can’t tolerate our children. And when you have teachers like this, how are we expected to have our children succeed and graduate? We’re not. I’m disgusted with not having enough money. You’re taking away after school programs, tutoring programs, schools, things that are important for our children, and then spending it on prisons.”  
Nina Dawson, Kingston’s 4th Ward alderwoman, said the dropout rate in her neighborhood is frightening. “To fund the educational system in cities, this is a must; it’s not something we can question. Education is definitely a right, not something we can choose, for rich or poor. Every child should be educated,” she said.
“It’s been a tough decade, where groups have been denied
the constitutionally required resources which they are owed,” said
Democratic congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout.  “But the
tide is turning, and in the last year we have started to win really surprising
victories, because we’ve raised up the voices that have been shut

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