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Guv cand Hawkins (G-NY) Joined in SUNY Albany Protests Against Education Budget Cuts, Part of National Day of Action

The only way that the Green Party can regain ballot status in NY is to get 50,000 votes for their Governor candidate in 2010. This opportunity comes only once every four years, and it only applies to the Governor’s race. Gaining ballot status will enable the Green Party to run more peace candidates, more single-payer candidates, more anti-fracking candidates, and more sustainable energy candidates. The last time that the Green Party of New York State had ballot status it set the record for running the most Green candidates of any state.

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor of New York, joined in protests at the SUNY Albany campus as part of the National Actions to Defend Public Education. Hawkins, the only union member running for statewide office, has called
for full funding of public schools; opposes charter schools; and advocates free tuition for public colleges.

Hawkins said:

Education is a fundamental right in a democratic society. One of the reasons the US is falling behind other industrial countries is our failure to ensure that all Americans have a right to quality education, including college. New York needs to put more money, not less, into our public colleges and schools.

Both Cuomo and Paladino have joined in the attacks on public education and teachers, including supporting a cap on local property taxes. Organizers of the National Day of Action to Defend Public Education (http://www.defendeducation.org/) point out that public education has been losing funding for years, much of which disappeared because of reducing or dissolving taxes on the rich and corporations while working people struggle to provide for their families out of their ever-shrinking pockets.

The current budget crisis in many states will result in further drastic cuts to public education, including further cuts to underfunded schools, increases in unpaid days off for staff, a incentive program promoting “reforms” that are outright attacks on teachers, a restructuring of the public university around the needs of private business – largely supported by massive private grants, and tuition hikes that threaten accessibility to higher education for working families and people of color.

In New York State, the Legislature slashed SUNY’s budget by over $210 million this year. SUNY’s total operating budget has been reduced by 30% over the past three years. This will likely result in another round of tuition fee hikes, further restricting New York State’s citizens’ access to higher education and adding to the mounting debt burden of those students who can attend a State University. Cuts will result in fewer classes offered, larger class sizes, fewer faculty and staff, fewer programs and resources, and diminishing facilities. In 1989-90, for instance, the State of New York contributed nearly 43% of SUNY’s operating budget; today the State’s contribution has dropped to nearly 15%.

Hawkins said that the state’s fiscal problems can be easily resolved by keeping the $16 billion Stock Transfer Tax instead of rebating it to Wall Street, by raising $10 billion from a 50 percent Bankers’ Bonus Tax on the $20 billion in cash bonuses the Wall Street elite paid themselves in 2009, and by returning to the more progressive income tax structure that prevailed in New York before the 1980s.

“The Democrats’ various tax proposals, including their opposition to making the rich pay their fair share again, means that already under funded schools, especially in inner cities and rural areas, will face more funding cuts and teacher layoffs in the coming years,” Hawkins said.

A four-year plan to invest an additional $7 billion in school aid to districts across New York has been delayed due to the state’s budget problems, even though the Courts found that state lawmakers were illegally underfunding school systems with poor property tax bases.

The NY Times has reported that Cuomo is receiving significant campaign contributions from hedge funds that want to continue and expand the lucrative tax breaks available to charter schools. Charter schools divert tax funds from public schools and dispense with democratic public oversight while weakening the rights of teachers and their unions.

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