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Education Advocates Tell Gov, Lawmakers: “Back to the Drawing Board”

May 23, 2012

ALBANY, N.Y. - Frustration over teacher layoffs and public school program cutbacks around the state has prompted a new, year-long campaign to get the governor and legislature to "go back to the drawing board." An alliance of educators, parents, administrators, school board members, unions, and community groups is launching what it calls "Educate NY Now!"

The superintendent of schools in Cohoes, Robert Libby, says even the most diverse factions are setting aside sometimes-conflicting goals.

"It's reaching the level, after three years of cutbacks, that we're all in this together. And that's what's really important about this 'Educate NY Now!' initiative."

As someone who has had to balance budgets in three different school districts over 30 years, Libby says he understands: if there isn't money, there isn't money. But he says the governor and legislature should strive for a more equitable distribution of available dollars, and try to expand support for some of the programs where possible.

Libby says the Cohoes school district has lost 21 percent of its work force.

"Beginning two years ago, we lost 11 positions. For the current year, we lost 25 positions. And for the budget that was just approved rather nicely by 61 percent of our voters, we lost 35 positions."

Billy Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education says about 93 percent of school budgets were passed last Tuesday, indicating that most New Yorkers support education.

"There's plenty of polling that shows that New Yorkers feel that the policies that have come from Albany - the governor's policies specifically - have done more damage than good to education. We just need to keep telling that story, keep demanding that the governor and the legislature have to go back to the drawing board and get it right."

He says the group introducing itself in Albany today will put an emphasis on local events, initiatives and actions in school districts all over the state during the coming 12 months.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY