PRESS RELEASE: Bipartisan Assembly Members Demand More Money, Less Testing for Schools
March 26, 2015
Legislative & Political Updates
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition
MINEOLA (March 22, 2015) – New York State Assembly Members Steven Englebright, Al Graf, Kimberly Jean-Pierre, Todd Kaminsky, Charles Lavine, David McDonough, Tom McKevitt, Ed Ra, Joseph Saladino, Michelle Schimel and Michaelle Solages joined with the parents, community members, teachers and organizations at a rally at the Nassau County Legislative Office Building in Mineola to call for a state budget that adds additional funding beyond what is currently proposed and rejects Governor Cuomo’s proposals for more emphasis on high stakes testing and state takeover of struggling local schools.
“Our Assembly budget proposed a $1.8 billion school aid increase and we are still fighting for that. We need to prioritize high need schools while making sure we are taking care of all schools which the Assembly proposal does,” said Assembly Member Steven Englebright (D-East Setauket) ”In our budget bill we said ‘no’ to increasing the role of standardized tests in teacher evaluations and we said ‘no’ to state takeover of struggling schools. We are here today to make sure the Governor understand where we stand.”
“It is essential that this budget put our children first by providing proper education funding and we further reject the Governor’s proposals that will increase our reliance on standardized testing and further reduce local control of our schools,” said Assembly Member Ed Ra (R-Garden City). “When it comes to funding we are looking for at least at $1.8 billion school aid increase.”
This past Thursday the Governor and the Legislative leaders announced an agreement that school aid will increase by at least $1.4 billion in this year’s budget. This is substantially less than the $1.8 billion proposed in the Assembly’s budget bill or the $2 billion recommended by the New York State Board of Regents. At the event the legislators called for the $1.4 billion to be treated as a floor because it is not enough to sufficiently restore the many years of lost funding. Fair distribution of funds in ways that prioritize high need schools while helping all schools is also important in order to comply with the constitutional obligation to provide every student with a “sound, basic education.”
The Assembly members at the event also rejected the Governor’s proposals to increase the role of standardized in teacher evaluations which will mean more teaching to the test. They also opposed his plan for a state takeover of struggling local schools. On Long Island the state controlled Roosevelt schools for eleven years, overriding local decision making, and only left in 2013.
“We will all be better off when the day comes that those of us who have benefitted from public education fight for and support public education in the same way as those who have benefitted from private education,” said Assembly Member Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove). “Today is that day and in the Assembly we are fighting for a $1.8 billion school aid increase and against the overuse and misuse of testing as well as against the Governor’s proposal to replace local school boards with a state receiver in underperforming local schools.”
“The Assembly’s budget is the only budget on the table that gives students and teachers the support they need for truly great schools,” said Assembly Member Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach). “The Senate must step up to the plate and match the Assembly’s commitment to high-quality public education. Students and teachers need support for truly great schools, and New York State has let them down for far too long.”
The lawmakers were joined by the Alliance for Quality Education, the Working Families Party, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change and New York State United Teachers at the rally at the Nassau County Legislative Building in Mineola.
“The Governor talks about bipartisanship. Well we have finally accomplished that on Long Island. Sadly it’s come about in opposition to Cuomo’s wrongheaded education policies. The $1.4 billion school aid increase that is on the table now is not enough, the Assembly proposed $1.8 billion and that should be the minimum,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director Alliance for Quality Education. “His idea for a state takeover of underfunded, underperforming schools full of high need students is poorly conceived and he is proposing to put standardized testing on steroids by making 50 percent of teacher evaluations based on these tests.”
“Long Islanders are proud of their public schools, which stack up against any public school system, anywhere. Our schools are renowned for their quality because we focus on teaching – not testing – and because we battle for the programs and resources our students need to succeed,” said Barbara Hafner, a sixth grade math and social studies teacher in West Hempstead. “I am proud to stand with Long Island’s Assembly delegation in support of a sound education budget that rejects the Governor’s ‘test and punish’ agenda, and other so-called ‘reforms’ that would harm Long Island’s schools, its teachers and, most importantly, students.”
“Working families all across the state are concerned about the direction Gov. Cuomo’s taking our schools. We know what our kids need to thrive: universal pre-K. smaller classes, art and music, career and technical education, and college prep courses,” Michael Gendron, Executive Vice President of CWA Local 1108 and representative of the Working Families Party. “We urge the Assembly to stick to the positions cited in their one house budget, which called for $1.8 billion funding and rejected the Governor’s agenda of high-stakes testing and privatization. Working families from every corner of New York demand a fully funded high quality public education. Our students deserve it.”
“Over the past few years, I’ve seen more and more good programs, like music, get cut from our schools,” said Tembi Jenkins, a Brentwood education leader with LIPC and AQE. “This is directly due to the state’s unwillingness to provide our schools with fair and equitable funding. The Governor needs to stop playing politics with children’s education and restore funding so programs can be added, not eliminated.”
“I came to Long Island 25 years ago from El Salvador because I wanted a better environment and a better education for my children,” said Dionisia Canales, a member of Make the Road New York and Westbury parent. “Education for my kids is my most important priority. I live in Westbury, one of the worst school districts in the state and demand that something is done to improve this situation. Our schools need to be given the necessary resources so our children can have the same opportunities as all others in the state. I am an immigrant and I have worked hard so my children will have a better chance of succeeding in life than I had where I grew up. I have dreams for them, and won’t allow for their future to be trapped in the middle of a political game. Their future should be a priority of all in Albany! Schools need more resources and local control to do what makes sense for their communities.”