Utica, N.Y. - A small but passionate group of education activists traveled from Rome to Utica Saturday morning to get the word out that they aren't happy about Governor Cuomo's potential 20% cut in state aid for school districts.
The group was made up of representatives from the Rome Teacher's Association, the Central New York Chapter of Citizen Action of New York and the Alliance for Quality Education based in Albany.
Their day began at Ft. Stanwix in Rome where they held a rally, and then the group traveled via a caravan to the State Office Building in Utica where they again held a short rally.
It was just one of many such caravans across the state on Saturday. Besides the Rome to Utica rally, similar rallies were held in Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, Kingston and New York City.
A car caravan with participants from New York City visited the offices of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in the Bronx and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in Yonkers, calling on New York State's leaders to stand up for public schools.
Rome Teacher's Association President Rob Wood was among the traveling group from Rome to Utica.
Wood says a 20% cut would be disastrous for schools districts, especially the bigger city school districts across the state including Rome and Utica, "Most school districts are already short of what they need and what's going to happen with the Governors 20% cuts will be a loss of sorely needed services such as emotional and social needs for children. So we're going to lose our social workers and our guidance counselors and the encore things that children really need, sports programs. So the cuts are going to be extremely negatively impactful for the children across the state."
Wood says he hopes the federal government will also come through with more funding for education, "Millions and millions of dollars are being used in each school district to purchase the protective equipment for the personnel, cleaning supplies, the additional personnel that they need to clean the buildings based on the guidelines. Hopefully the federal government will come through with what we need here across the nation and certainly in Central New York, but we also need to get some assistance from the New York State Legislature. So if there's a rainy day fund available, this in fact is a rainy day, and a rainy year in fact."
Dawn Legere with the Central New York Chapter of Citizen Action of New York says she is tired of what she calls the systematic underfunding of our schools and is urging Governor Cuomo to not only not go through with the 20% cut to schools, but to also use a rainy-day fund to help districts that are in such great need because of their added cost due to COVID, "One of the premises that were suggesting is that Gov. Cuomo use the rainy day fund."
Sen. Joe Griffo of Rome told News Channel 2 on Saturday that he is also concerned with the Governor's potential decision to cut school aid, "My understanding right now is that the Governor is withholding money, whether or not he ultimately decides to cut remains to be seen. Unfortunately under the budget that was approved, that I voted against, there was authority given to him to make decisions accordingly in context of a pandemic. Also, the legislature has the ability to return within 10 days after he files a report to alter any of those decisions. He has not made an official report yet and we are urging the leadership in both houses to engage the Governor and make a determination as to whether he is abiding by the legislation that was passed."