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Opponents Sound-Off on Paterson’s Proposed $1.4 Billion in Education Cuts

March 4, 2010

ALBANY, N.Y. - As if the governor did not already have enough on his plate, David Paterson will be getting protest messages from across the state today concerning his proposed $1.4 billion cut in education.

Sherry Byrnes, a steering committee member of the Alliance for Quality Education, explains the cuts would be especially hard on high-need school districts, which she says are chronically under-funded. As an example, she points to the thousands of refugee children who have been resettled in Buffalo, where the cuts would reverse progress that has been made in meeting their needs. In a word, she says, the impact will be "devastating."

"That's an overworked word today, but it is the reality, and it's so important that we put a face on it - especially in a city like Buffalo, where we are so highly dependent on state funding."

Gov. Paterson says many school districts are sitting on cash reserves that could lessen the impacts of the cuts. Byrnes warns that using reserves could jeopardize districts' long-term fiscal health, and again citing Buffalo, she says the district could use half its reserves and still not absorb all the proposed cuts.

Since state funding follows students who head to charter schools, Cathy Korbo, president of the Albany State Teacher's Association, says Paterson's proposed cuts carry a double-punch. In Albany, just a few more than 2,000 students chose to head to charter schools, and their departure has had a major economic impact.

"This year we will be sending $30 million to charter schools to support the students who have left our district; and we're experiencing a $7.7 million deficit from the governor's budget in terms of our district's state aid."

Parents, students, educators and community leaders will hold 18 news conferences across the state today to discuss their opposition to the proposed cuts. A central message will be that the state has broken its promise to adequately fund education under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity commitment, and that these cuts come on top of that broken promise.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY