Assemblyman Philip Ramos (D-Brentwood) today joined local educators, community leaders, parents and school children to oppose the governor’s attempt to slash education funding. Community members brought over 2,000 post cards expressing their disapproval of the governor’s $1.4 billion cut to school aid.
"The overwhelming response from community leaders, concerned parents and their children shows how woefully short-sighted the governor’s budget plan truly is," Ramos said. "No one knows what schools need better than the educators and parents who devote their lives to helping our children excel. We’re here to demand that the governor allow every child the chance to reach their full potential by providing them with a quality education taught in a top-notch school."
Ramos said the governor’s proposed cut to schools would have devastating effects on children and communities for years to come – especially in the Brentwood, Bay Shore, Central Islip and Islip school districts.
Joining Ramos at the press conference were Maureen Dutcher, Assistant Business Administrator Bayshore School District; Barbara Fishkind, Community Outreach Director of the Bay Shore School District; Les Black, Superintendent of Brentwood School District; Gail Kirkman, Brentwood PTA; Dr. Jerry Jackson, Superintendent of Central Islip School District; Star Wahnon, Assistant Principal of Central Islip Alternative High School Program; Dr. Joan Lange, Interim Administrator for Curriculum and Instruction in Islip Public Schools; Debbie Grayer, Islip Council PTA President; and Barbara Bracciodieta, Central Islip PTA President.
"If the governor’s cuts in aid to education are allowed to stand, Enrichment Programs such as our Saturday Academy – as well as some of some of our Academic Intervention Services – may very well be lost," Black said. "Our children cannot afford to lose these and other vital services."
"My success is built through the benefits provided by AIS," said 11th grader Karla Polanco Ross – also in attendance. "This provided the opportunity for a teacher to guide me step by step. I’m worried that the shortage of money for education will take away this opportunity for other students."
"Program cuts in technology are being considered in Islip," Grayer said. "We’ve just put a tremendous amount of money – through our bond issue – into ensuring that our computer labs and classrooms are equipped with state-of-the-art technology equipment. We’ve added a Technology Integration Services Teacher to work with students and staff so that technology is infused with the curricula in order to comply with New York State Learning Standards. Now that we’ve finally paved the information highway in Islip, we stand to encounter funding roadblocks that the governor has placed before us. Cuts to our technology program will hurt our students’ abilities to gain a competitive edge with the technological skills that are demanded in every facet of life today. In addition, it would be a travesty to the taxpayers of Islip if we are forced to stall this initiative when we’ve come so far in such a short time."
"Being one of the largest child care providers in New York State, the YMCA has found that providing children with a jump-start on their education through pre-school education programs has proven to be an invaluable experience," said Bob Pettersen from the Great South Bay YMCA in Bay Shore. "The Great South Bay YMCA believes that the elimination of state funding for the Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program will have staggering implications upon the children and families of our community. Universal pre-K allows families of our community the unique opportunity to access these critical resources which – in many cases – would not be possible. On behalf of the children and families, we implore the state to reconsider these drastic funding cuts."
"Due to the governor’s $1.4 billion cut in state aid, the Central Islip School District is at risk of losing the Alternative High School Program," Jackson said. "(This) program provides second chance opportunities for students who have had difficulty negotiating the normal school environment. In the last 13 years, a number of students have utilized the Alternative High School as a vehicle to obtain their high school diploma."
Wahnon said the Alternative High School Program has put at-risk students on the path to
success. "Since its inception in 1990, we have graduated over 135 students, and most of them have continued on to post-secondary education, vocational schools, the military, and even the F.B.I. Without programs such as these, we could be looking at 135 dropouts, not 135 graduates," she said.
Islip school officials warn the governor’s cuts are a recipe for fiscal disaster for local schools. "If one takes the devastating effects of the governor’s budget, which highlights cuts to
education, and couples it with certain costs that have drastically increased over this past year – health insurance is up 18 percent; the Employees Retirement System has increased 100 percent; and the Teachers Retirement System costs are 10 percent higher – we have, in Islip, the perfect financial storm," Alan Van Cott, Superintendent of Islip Public Schools, said. "In addition, our district’s debt service has increased $700,000 as a result of our recently completed bond project. Even if Islip’s aid this year remained unchanged, we would still need additional aid to offset these dramatic increases."
As a result, Van Cott said Islip schools are exploring possible cuts in programs and/or reduction in services in the following areas:
- Academic Intervention Services/remediation/extra help
- Support staff
- Buildings and grounds
- Clerical/custodial staff
- Professional staff
"Class size could also be affected and could possibly increase as we continue to explore cuts to our professional staff," Van Cott said.
"The possible reduction of staff will affect Islip’s Academic Intervention Services program detrimentally by reducing services to the students who need help most and by reducing the flexibility of the services that are currently offered," Lange said. "Less staff for academic intervention results in more rigid scheduling of these services, meaning that the services may not be available to our students as often during the school day and before or after school next year."
Dr. Evelyn Blose Holman, superintendent for Bayshore School District, sent a statement concurring with her colleagues, "As a member of the Regional College Board, I am attending a college board meeting in Philadelphia and regret that I cannot be at this important meeting to discuss the deep budget cuts proposed by the governor. A 15 percent reduction in Bay Shore’s state aid cannot be tolerated while enrollment continues to increase, health insurance premiums are projected to increase 15 percent and required teacher retirement contributions are up 700 percent. The state aid cuts jeopardize the very foundation and quality of our schools. The future of our students and our community are threatened."