Thousands march statewide for educational justice


KINGSTON – Thousands marched statewide for public education Saturday
afternoon, including almost 500 down Broadway in Kingston. Other rallies
were held in Buffalo, Rochester, Schenectady, Syracuse, New York City,
and Wyandanch.

Event organizers included Alliance for Quality Education, Citizen Action,
Metro Justice, Long Island Progressive Coalition, New York Communities
for Change, plus hundreds of co-sponsors.
Titled Peoples March for Education Justice, the crowd described itself
with repeated chanting and acclamation, as resistance movement education

A sea of people gathered in Kingston on Saturday in support of
continued state aid to education

Accompanied by marching bands, puppets, and speakers from the educational
field, participants braved brisk, windy weather to demand that funding
for public education remains intact.

Threatened by the chopping block this year are school lunch programs,
pre-K, special education, music and arts, reading programs, and foundation
aid, which equalizes revenues for impoverished school districts.

“Privatizing our school system, giving tax breaks for Wall Street,
and crumbs for the rest of us, is not fair education for all; it’s
the Hunger Games,” said Steven Spicer, principal of John L. Edwards
Primary School in Hudson.

Noting that $4.3 billion was withheld in foundation aid over the past
decade, Spicer called on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to “cash
that check.”

Other speakers also took aim at Cuomo. “When it comes to public
school systems, Trump and Cuomo are one and the same,” said Kingston
High School teacher Luz Christina Ramirez Mooney. “In Cuomo’s
budget that he just released, he wants to eliminate that foundation aid,
not even be held accountable to it,” she said.

James Shaughnessy, a member of the Kingston City School District Board
of Education, observed that on a federal level, privatization through
charter school vouchers threatens public education, via House Resolution
610, which replaces traditional funding with block grants.

Shaughnessy also indicated that school lunch programs are constantly under
attack, along with costly special education programs. As expenses rise,
funding sources become more limited, making budgets impossibly tight,
he said.

For example, the property tax cap limit increase for Kingston schools
is currently $1.3 million. “Our increase in health insurance costs
alone is projected to be $3 million,” Shaughnessy said. “There’s
a big gap, and that’s what we’re all here for.”

Kathleen Tobin, a former member of the New Paltz Central School District
Board of Education, urged parents to opt-out of unfair state mandated
testing, which she said skews grades and funding for public schools. She
also bashed “harmful” state and federal policies which discourage
graduates from entering the educational sector.

Protesters peacefully marched down from Academy Green to the high school,
accompanied by a police escort. A Resist and Rebuild public education
forum will be held Thursday March 9, 6:30 p.m., at the SUNY New Paltz
Lecture Center.