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Weekend warriors

UFTers, parents meet with senators on a Saturday to stress importance of halting cuts

Sen. Martin Malave Dilan (standing, right) addresses members and parents from his district.

For State Senate Majority Conference Leader John Sampson, “There is nothing more important than our constitutional obligation to providing all of New York’s children with a quality education. Especially during times of fiscal crisis, we must protect our investment in our children and our future by maintaining a well-funded education system.”

That’s why the Brooklyn legislator made it a point to be one of nine area senators who met with concerned UFT members and parents on June 5 to discuss at length the potentially drastic cutbacks facing New York City schools.

The four-hour gathering, which attracted more than 300 parents, community activists and teachers, was designed to build a dialogue with the senators about the devastation that the loss of $500 million — the amount of city education aid cut in the preliminary budgets of both the governor and the Senate — would cause to school communities.

The senators who participated spent considerable time with their constituents discussing alternatives to cuts and ways to work together.

“This event is to help create a constructive conversation between our senators and our school communities,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew told attendees.

The event was co-sponsored with the Alliance for Quality Education, the Coalition for Educational Justice and New York Communities for Change.

Mulgrew told attendees and senators that “your coming in on a Saturday shows how much you care about schools and children.”

Harlem State Sen. Bill Perkins made clear that he has his priorities straight, telling the crowd that “nothing is second to public education.”

Perkins called the governor’s fiscal plan “a crippling budget” and said that he was committed “to putting as much back as possible.”

Andrew Pallotta, former Bronx District 10 rep and current NYSUT executive vice president, told legislators about the devastating effects of the 1975 city fiscal crisis, and how during that time he was one of 42 students in a jammed classroom “and there were not enough chairs; I had to sit on the radiator.”

nyt20100617-2c.jpgState Sen. Eric Schneiderman (right) listens as parent Thadeus Brown discusses the damage budget cuts would do.

Senator and Attorney-General hopeful Eric Schneiderman reminded his audience that he was chief Senate sponsor of last year’s bill creating new, higher tax rates on affluent households. He also said he was in full agreement with a millionaire’s tax and a tariff on stock trading.

“Placing a cost on stock transactions cuts down on short-selling, something that caused the recession,” he said.

It wasn’t all a meeting of minds.

Republican Sen. Marty Golden ruled out any new state taxes, including a millionaire’s tax, “which will just force the rich to leave New York,” he said.

Golden said he preferred looking for savings in a scaled-back state work force, in pursuing agency cuts, in privatizing the Off-Track Betting Corporation “and operating Aqueduct as a casino.”

While adding that he was “against cuts, and voted against every school cut,” Golden forewarned that “they’re coming.”

Also attending the event were senators Daniel Squadron, Velmanette Montgomery, Martin Malave Dilan, Kevin Parker and Pedro Espada.

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