Last year, more than 1,500 people from across the Island joined together to fight for their fair share of aid.
State legislators, taxpayers, students, educators, small business owners and labor leaders are strongly urged to take part in a bipartisan education and taxpayer rally to fight Governor David Paterson's proposed multimillion dollar education aid cuts to Long Island's schools, which were revealed in his 2009-2010 proposed executive budget.
The rally will be held Saturday, Feb. 28 from 11 a.m. to noon at Ellsworth Allen Park, located on Motor Avenue in Farmingdale.
"This is a rally nobody can afford to miss. This rally is about not just protecting our schools and children, it's also about saving our taxpayers. The governor's slash and burn budget is totally unfair to Long Island," Assemblyman Tom Alfano said. "He cuts our share, hurts our kids and devastates quality public education. This rally is going to send a message to him-cut the fat of bloated state government. Cut programs that don't work. Merge state agencies and services. Don't cut aid to our schools."
What disturbs Assemblyman Alfano most though is the fact that Long Island schools are cut disproportionately from the rest of the state. "City schools aren't cut with the budget ax as hard as we are. Why? I can't help but wonder if that is due to the fact the governor, the speaker and the Senate majority leader are all from New York City. We can't let these cuts happen and this rally is just the first step in the fight to save our communities," Assemblyman Alfano said.
On Dec. 16, 2008, more than one month prior to the constitutional deadline, Governor Paterson delivered a balanced executive budget, which, he said, would eliminate the largest budget deficit in New York State history. "The decision to recommend a reduction in school aid is a personally difficult one for me," Governor Paterson said while announcing the executive budget. "During my time in the Legislature, I was one of the strongest advocates for increased education funding. The grim reality of our current fiscal situation is that all areas of state spending will have to experience reductions. But I am assured in the knowledge that, even after these actions, New York will still have one of the best-funded education systems in the nation."
Senator Kemp Hannon thinks it's just not feasible to gut school funding on Long Island. "Residents are losing their jobs, home values are down and this is not the time to take away this money - which will result in school tax increases across the board come May," he said. "The effect of this is compounded since the budget proposes to eliminate STAR Rebate checks - a de facto tax increase on Long Island homeowners. The executive branch pledged to do something about property taxes on Long Island. Last year, we passed a tax cap. Since then, there has been no movement on the issue. As I have said time and again, you cannot balance the budget on the backs of Long Islanders."
Assemblyman Tom McKevitt, who will be taking part in the Feb. 28 rally in Farmingdale, added, "This governer's budget severely shortchanges Long Island on state aid for education. I strongly oppose it and will fight for increased funding for the fair share we deserve."
Earlier this month, Senator Craig Johnson was happy to report that the Senate Democratic Majority joined its Assembly colleagues to pass a deficit reduction plan to balance New York's budget for the remainder of this fiscal year. The plan closed the state's $1.6 billion budget deficit, avoiding mid-year school aid cuts that, in many districts, Senator Johnson said, would have caused chaos in the classroom, as well as higher property taxes.
"For years Long Island schools have not gotten their fair share of state funding. It is critical for all members of the Long Island delegation to stand together in a genuine, united and nonpartisan effort to ensure that our schools and our children are protected in this harsh economic climate. We must recognize that during this bad budget year, we have to work together to fight for every possible dollar for our schools. As I have always said, preserving the quality of our schools should not be and is not a partisan issue," Senator Johnson, who attended last year's school aid rally, said.
The 2008 rally proved critical in helping defeat cuts to Long Island's share of state education aid proposed by then-Governor Eliot Spitzer, Senator Marcellino noted. "Last year, over 1,500 people from across the Island joined together to fight for our fair share and it worked. This year, with homeowners already overtaxed and feeling the strain of a bad economy, we need to fight once again to protect our students and taxpayers," Senator Marcellino said.