Students and Teachers Unite on Civil Rights Issue of Education on Steps of Million Dollar Staircase
(Long Island, NY) The Alliance for Quality Education, American Federation of Teachers, Citizen Action of New York, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, New York State NAACP, New York State United Teachers, Strong Economy for All Coalition, United Federation of Teachers, and the Working Families Party targeted inequality in education in a Moral Monday gathering at the Capitol today.
Rallying at the Million Dollar Staircase in the State Capitol, over 1,000 parents, students and community members joined the coalition of education advocates and challenged Gov. Cuomo’s failing education policies. They highlighted the moral and constitutional obligation to fund education fairly and equitably; and opposed the efforts of his hedge fund billionaire campaign donors to take over public education. Keynote speaker Rev. Dr. William Barber, who established Moral Mondays in North Carolina, spoke passionately to the crowd about our moral duty to right the wrong to hundreds of thousands of New York State children who go without the quality education that is their constitutional right.
The rally highlighted the enormous inequities with some children having access to excellent and enriching curriculum while others go without the basics like art and music. These inequities have grown to record setting levels under Governor Cuomo with the wealthy districts now spending $8,733 more per pupil more than poor ones as documented in a new report released by the Alliance for Quality Education. The rally comes the week before Governor Cuomo, who has recently attacked public schools, gives his State of the State address and two weeks before he issues his state budget proposal.
The rally was followed by a read-in in front of the Governor’s office where protesters read documents ranging from New York State Constitution to Dr. Martin Luther King to Dr. Seuss.
“Gov. Cuomo’s education policies have done nothing but breed record inequality that leave our public schools starved for resources and our children’s opportunities for success limited,” said Zakiyah Ansari, the Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Quality. “Instead of attacking our educators and focusing on more testing, Gov. Cuomo needs to address the racial and economic inequality in our schools that he helped to create. Our children deserve better. It’s time for him to try equity in education.”
“All students, regardless of where they live in New York State, deserve the same education,” said Dr. Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference. “All students deserve schools with art programs, with science labs, with AP courses, after-school programs and real libraries. That is our goal. We have to fight for our children.”
“If Albany wants to do right by our kids, it needs to put politics aside and address full and fair funding for all students and all our public schools,” Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “The reality is that you can’t make the changes our children deserve unless all kids and teachers have the support, interventions and resources they need. It’s time to stop blaming educators and, instead, come together, from Albany to New York City, to reclaim the promise of public education.”
“Hundreds of thousands of New York’s children are crammed into oversize classes in seriously underfunded schools,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “Rather than dealing with this crisis by looking at ways to raise revenues from the 1 percent, Governor Cuomo has adopted the language of so-called “reformers.” We have been down that road. Their so-called educational “reforms” have failed in every community they have been tried. We need real solutions.”
“More than half of our school districts are operating today with less state aid than in 2008. We have 35,000 fewer educators in classrooms than six years ago. We have funding inequities that rob the most vulnerable students in the poorest districts of their right to a sound education. This is immoral. Addressing these issues and correcting these glaring inequities should be a top priority this legislative session,” said New York State United Teachers Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta. “We can’t allow ourselves to be distracted. It’s why Governor Cuomo must hold public forums to hear first-hand what students, parents and educators want for their public education system.”
“New York’s poorest school districts get $8,700 less than the richest per student,” said New York Working Families Party Director Bill Lipton. “It’s on Governor Cuomo to address this inequity and fully fund all our public schools.”
“Students won’t have basic educational opportunities until the state remedies the inequality in school funding,” said Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York. “The state must invest in pre-K, community schools, and fair funding for public education so that every child has a chance to succeed.”
“There is an enormous inequality gap in our public schools and Governor Cuomo has made it worse,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education. “The result is students in wealthy districts having every opportunity to succeed and secure a bright future, while millions of other students in high-need districts see their opportunities shrink due to Cuomo’s policies.”