BUFFALO, N.Y. – “We’ll remember in November” was the message for Gov. George Pataki, chanted loud and clear at a rally of over 1,500 students, parents and teachers at city hall here Dec. 3.
The rally was to protest the layoff of more than 500 school workers – 433 of them teachers. The layoffs are a result of a $28 million gap in the Buffalo School Board’s budget.
In addition to the layoffs, all non-mandated programs and services will be cut. This includes sports programs, extracurricular activities and extra help for students who need it to pass state tests that are required for graduation.
Some schools will be without guidance counselors, librarians and computer teachers and classrooms will be combined.
Judy Einach, a representative of the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), a statewide coalition, told the rally that Buffalo would not be in this crisis if Gov. Pataki had not appealed the decision in the lawsuit that the Campaign for Fiscal Equity won against New York for its unfair funding formula for schools.
She called on legislators to put education at the top of their priority list and said the children of Buffalo are also victims of the Sept. 11 tragedy.
She was referring to the fact that after Sept. 11, the New York legislature, which has still not passed a budget, told the Buffalo School Board that the money it was expecting for the schools was not available.
Celia Dean, from the Working Families Party (WFP), called on Gov. Pataki to “stop gambling with our children.”
According to the WFP, Buffalo schools would have more than $31 million extra dollars right now if the state spent the lottery money on education, as it is supposed to, instead of using it to replace other state money.
“Pallbearers” carried a mock casket, representing the Buffalo public schools, through the crowd and protesters filled it with letters that will be taken to Albany.
JoAnn Cole, the Western New York coordinator for AQE, said “It’s important for people to realize they have power in numbers to change things and they can do that at the polls.”
Danielle Dudley, a freshman at McKinley High School, said the number of students at the rally shows how concerned they are about their education and that they are willing to fight for increased aid.