September 8, 2014
By Beth Borzone
Hauppauge – Over 100 outraged teachers, administrators, and parents rallied in Hauppauge on Thursday to protest Governor Cuomo’s education policies and to support Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham Law professor who is challenging Cuomo in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Many teachers who have been protesting Common Core testing and the tax cap for months felt that Cuomo has ignored their concerns. As a result, New York State United Teachers Union refused to endorse Cuomo this election and some local teachers’ unions have gone the next step and endorsed Teachout.
Teachout, who addressed the crowd, has been outspoken about issues important to educators and parents such as ending high-stakes testing, halting common core, and protecting public schools from privatization.
In her campaign platform Teachout stated, “Governor Cuomo has abandoned our public schools. His drastic budget cuts are short- sighted and entirely unnecessary. Under his tenure, class sizes have swollen to record levels, depriving students of the attention they need. New York school districts have had to eliminate tens of thousands of educator positions, amounting to more than 10 percent of the entire teaching workforce. This means schools have had to slash art, music, and sports, among other programs.
What makes this even more outrageous is that Governor Cuomo did not make these cuts because state coffers were empty. He made these cuts so he could cut the taxes of New York’s wealthiest individuals, of New York’s wealthiest banks, and of New York’s wealthiest corporations. Worse yet, after intentionally starving New York’s public schools, Governor Cuomo charged New York’s public school teachers with failing New York’s students. He then used this charge to justify calling for the privatization of schools and for the imposition of draconian testing requirements.”
Adam Yuro, past president of the Bedford Teachers’ Association traveled from Westchester to Long Island to explain why the Bedford Teachers’ Association decided to endorse Teachout.
“We support Zephyr Teachout because she supports public education. Andrew Cuomo has not been a friend of public education. He’s given all of the money to charter schools, Yuro said, adding, “there was a surplus that the state reported. Are you using that money for public schools? Apparently not! You still have a significant loss of teachers. We had layoffs beginning in 2008. Thousands and thousands of teachers are no longer in the classrooms and we have larger class sizes and that is just unconscionable. I believe that Zypher Teachout is going to bring money back to public education and bring staffing back into the schools.”
Beth Ziff-Dimino, President of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, expressed outrage that testing companies and those who invest in them are profiting, while school districts are put under increased financial pressure.
“The testing costs districts a fortune. It cost us money to get the tests, to grade the tests. It costs districts money to administer the tests …to purchase the review materials,” Ziff-Dimino explained.
Ziff-Dimino also expressed concern about the tax cap, which makes it difficult for districts to raise the money it needs to support programs by requiring a 60% vote to approve any school budget that increases more than 2%. Requiring a 60%, rather than the typical majority vote, is un-American, Ziff-Dimino said.
“On Tuesday, if Cuomo wins 51%-49%, he’s going to take that win,” Ziff-Dimino said, pointing out that school districts do not have the same opportunity that Cuomo is taking for himself.
The Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association has also endorsed Teachout.
While they may be blinded by passion, many teachers in the crowd believe Teachout has a chance to win the primary on Tuesday.
“Typically you don’t get a big turnout for primaries and … I believe that en mass we are going to have Zypher Teachout supporters at the polls and it’s going to be the biggest upset of the century,” Yuro said.
Jeanette Deutermann, founder of Long Island Opt Out, spoke at the rally about all the stories she hears from parents about children’s increasing anxiety over testing. Deutermann also thinks Teachout has a chance to win. “”People come out (to vote) when they feel passionate. Nobody cares more and has more passion than people who care about education,” Deutermann said.
“Zephyr Teachout is great,” said Mike Dolber, past president of the Bellmore-Merrick United Secondary Teachers, “She’s everything that we’ve been looking for in a candidate, but never had.” The Bellmore-Merrick United Secondary Teachers Union also voted to endorse Teachout.