March 18, 2024

Long Island activists rally to restore Foundation Aid cuts

Author: Kara Smith
Source:  NYSUT Communications
Long Island activists rally to restore Foundation Aid cuts
Caption: NYSUT President Melinda Person takes a stand to fully fund our public schools in Suffolk.

Sixth-grader Kelsie Curran knows what she wants to do when she grows up. And she’s thankful to her teachers for, hopefully, helping her get there some day. “I’d like to make it to Broadway,” said Curran, one of several Dawnwood Middle School drama club members who performed at the “Long Island Schools Can’t Afford to Lose!” rally in Hauppauge in mid-March.

Music teacher Lou Lomangio, Middle Country Teachers Association, invited his students to perform at the event to highlight the importance of restoring funding cuts; arts programs are sometimes first on the chopping block when districts face funding shortfalls. “I want to show that they’re worth it,” said Lomangio whose district faces approximately $1.2 million in cuts. “These students are never happier than when they’re making music in band and chorus.”

Curran sang the John Lennon classic, “Imagine.” And for the hundreds of rally attendees, imagining the disruption and pain of Foundation Aid cuts if the executive budget proposal stands isn’t hard — Long Island districts could lose $76.2 million, translating to lost jobs and cuts to important student programs. “We’re not going to go backwards with the investments we’ve made in our schools, we’re only moving forward,” said Melinda Person, NYSUT president, who has traveled to over 50 different schools statewide to witness first-hand the value of Foundation Aid investment, from elementary STEM programs to health services to Career and Technical Education offerings. “Although our country is divided on many issues, something we can all agree on is that we love our schools — Republicans, Democrats they all agree!”

Chanting “hey, hey, ho, ho funding cuts have got to go!” and other spirited cries, members from dozens of locals across Long Island filled the parking lot of the H. Lee Dennison Building for the event. “We’re facing massive cuts if the budget goes the way that it was proposed, we’re looking at a $7.9 million reduction in state aid which would be devastating,” said Brian Pickford, president of the Three Village Teachers Association. “I’ve used the word apocalyptic when we talk about the cuts, dozens and dozens of teachers, programs, electives, clubs, sports, it’s never ending.”

Fund Our Future Rally - Hauppauge NY

Representatives from several union groups showed their support including AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento, and Long Island Federation of Labor President John Durso and other LIFL activists. “We want to let those who control the purse strings know that we stick together,” said William Cassidy, a LIFL vice president and International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees member. “We support you, and not just for this event.”

Fresh from passing one-house budgets that would restore Foundation Aid, several state lawmakers spoke at the rally in support of students and educators, including Assemblymembers Ed Ra, Chuck Lavine and John Mikulin and State Senators Mario Matteria and Monica Martinez. “This our line in the sand,” said Assemblymember Doug Smith. “This is the last year our teachers and students will be used as pawns in the budget fight.”