As a high school sophomore and co-president of the class of 2015, Kyle Kilkenny knows his future is in the hands of state lawmakers.
While the Sachem district on Long Island has previously been able to keep a wide variety of programs, including full-day kindergarten, Advanced Placement courses and most sports and clubs, the district now faces a $13 to $26 million budget deficit. The school board is considering a whole host of programming cuts.
“No music, no arts, no clubs. That is not progress, but a hindrance of New York’s students. Who is going to suffer? The future of America,” reads a letter Kilkenny wrote to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He intends to hand deliver his letter to the Capitol.
You can read Kyle’s entire letter here. In this picture, Kyle is in the center in one of Sachem’s musical productions.
Kyle is one of the 14,145 students in the state’s largest suburban district. (The student population is larger than every small city school district, in fact.) He plans to join at least 1,000 parents, school board and community members traveling to Albany tomorrow, Feb. 28, to lobby on behalf of their district. They will board buses early to make appointments starting at 10 a.m.; they’ll start the bus ride back by 4 p.m.
Two teachers — both members of the Sachem Central Teachers Association — are taking personal days to make the trip. And the union is using some of its Local Action Program funding from NYSUT to help cover the cost of the transportation for the event, which is sponsored by the Sachem PTA.
“Sachem schools are in desperate need for more state funding than is provided in the proposed budget,” said Marjorie Ayasse, SCTA secretary and a high school music teacher. “The taxpayers in our district have been wonderful — passing budgets and, last year, they overrode the tax cap. But we are now at the point where our state aid is proposed to be the same as it was in 2004-05. That’s not right.”
Other facts about Sachem:
- The current budget is $304 million.
- The governor’s executive proposal, if approved unchanged, would only provide 34.5 percent of the district’s budget. In 2005-06, state aid covered 41.6 percent.
- The proposed budget does provide an increase to fund pre-kindergarten. However, the district is considering cutting full-day kindergarten. (Remember, kindergarten is not a mandated program.)
- Sachem only has $550,000 in reserve funds. This is far below the 4 percent, or $12 million, the state recommends districts keep on hand.
- The district has cut all non-essential expenditures.
Jon Weston teaches English at Sachem and tomorrow’s lesson was supposed to be about individualism versus collectivism in Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem. “But since it’s about standing up for what you believe in, it’s fitting because literally everything is on the line here,” Weston said. It’s also comforting to him to know that he has the support of all 1,400 SCTA members. Those members plan to use NYSUT’s Member Action Center on Thursday to fax their lawmakers to support more funding for New York’s classrooms.
Kudos to the SCTA for supporting this event and using NYSUT’s MAC to support it. Of course, it’s not just Sachem schools that are experiencing state aid to school drops. Unfortunately, 159 school districts — more than 20 percent — would get less state aid if the proposed budget is approved.
Consider this event a trial run for next week’s Committee of 100, where hundreds of NYSUT members will advocate for education aid, from pre-k through college; to restore cuts to hospitals and health care centers, BOCES, libraries and teacher centers; and to fix the irresponsible property tax cap law. Although the Committee of 100 won’t feature a Parade for Public Education. Which reminds me, have you signed up yet?