Students, Teachers Protest At Capitol For More School Aid

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More than 1,500 students, teachers, parents and union officials rallied at the state Capitol today to seek additional school aid, saying districts have cut staff and programs in recent years.

A group of 23 students from Watkins Glen High School in Schuyler County raised $800 in recent weeks from businesses, parents and teachers to attend Wednesday’s rally and pay for transportation. The Alliance For Quality Education, a union-backed group based in Albany, organized the event.

“We just wanted to make sure our voices were heard,” said Robert Rondinaro, 18, a senior, who helped organize the trip.

Mount Vernon students felt the same way. More than 250 students, parents and teachers raised more than $4,000 to attend the rally and visit their local lawmakers’ offices. The money went to rent five buses for the trip to Albany.

About 85 students and teachers made the trip from Dutchess County, while about 30 to 40 people came from Rochester, organizers said.

“The children wanted to come up and meet their elected officials, those who make the decisions that impact them regarding budget cuts and funding,” said Brenda Crump, a parent advocate from Mount Vernon.

In the 2012-13 fiscal year, schools are expected to receive an additional $805 million in state aid, a 4 percent increase from the current year, which ends March 31. It would be the first increase in several years; aid was cut by $1.2 billion in the current fiscal year.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has angered school leaders because he wants $250 million of the new aid to be used for competitive grants. The state Legislature passed their own budget resolutions this week that would restore about $200 million for general school aid.

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