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Educators plead case for more aid

47 districts represented at Colonie panel discussion

Thursday, January 30, 2014
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— Science classes too large to do experiments. No reading specialists. No social workers. No theater programs.

In a panel discussion called Schools In Peril, teachers and school leaders from 47 Capital Region school districts described the conditions they’re working under, while nearly every Capital Region state legislator looked on Thursday night.

School officials hoped to persuade legislators to pour far more money into the schools; not just ending cuts but funding aid at a level promised years ago.

They painted a bleak picture of today’s schools.

In the South Colonie Central School District, teacher Pegeen Jensen said she took a child to the nurse with bedbugs. In past years, they would call in a social worker, but there isn’t one at her school now.

“We scramble to help a child in crisis,” she said.

The district also used to send a reading specialist into her classroom to work daily with her five to eight neediest readers. That was cut, too.

At Troy High School, chemistry classes are now so large, students can’t do experiments, teacher Seth Cohen said.

“The teacher is doing a demonstration,” he said.

Albany schools Superintendent Marguerite Wyngaard begged outright for more state funds. Her district gets 64 percent of the amount promised when the state rebuilt its aid formula to take into consideration the need of students and the ability of local taxpayers to fund districts.

“If you get us to 100 percent, I promise we will catapult learning,” she said. “Our students need services, and we can’t provide them. I don’t have tutors, I don’t have reading specialists. I have hardworking teachers.”

The panel spoke before a packed house in the Colonie Central High School auditorium. So many people came that school officials opened a gym and broadcast the event there, as well.

South Colonie Superintendent Jon Buhner urged the audience to call their legislators and the governor to demand more funding.

“I personally will not stand by to witness the loss of a generation’s potential,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to outline the severity of the situation.”

The legislators were not invited to speak during the event. Some met with constituents individually afterward, but they made no public statements regarding the issues raised by speakers at the event.

 
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