Local teachers head to Albany for school funding rally
UTICA, N.Y. - 'More cuts and lost opportunities.' That's what educators are telling Albany will be coming down the line if schools don't see additional aid. More than a thousand people, including teachers, students, parents, librarians and other educators from across the state are at the capitol on Tuesday for the "Parade for Public Education and Lobby Day." Teachers from the Utica area boarded a bus at JFK Middle School on Tuesday morning and headed to the capitol to tell lawmakers that education will suffer if action is not taken. "In the past, Utica teachers, we've always been willing to do our part. We've always been willing to take the zeros in our pay increases, things like that," said Nicholas Rauch, a teacher at Conkling Elementary School. "You know, we've been willing to take the new APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) with greater accountability, a greater workload for ourselves, and we feel like, right now, it's Albany's turn to act, help us out. They've given us a four percent increase, but that comes on the heels of so many years of zero or loss that it's really necessary to keep class sizes where they need to be for education to be effective." The event, an actual parade down Washington Avenue will be led by high school marching bands, a symbol of the many programs that are being cut due to lack of funding in public schools. "There's definitely an equitable funding issue," said David Schiavi, a fellow elementary school teacher at Conkling. "I'm a fiscal conservative, I know people are paying their fair share and I know we live in tough times. Teachers are sacrificing for the community, especially in areas like Utica and in rural school districts. We're struggling with a thousand ESL kids, and I'm just throwing that number out there, a huge population. Our school is growing, most schools are not. And we're starving for that reason and there needs to be something done to fix that."