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NYSNYS NEWS: Thousands of children and adults supporting Cuomo education agenda rally in Albany.
NYSNYS News
NYSNYS NEWS: Thousands of children and adults supporting Cuomo education agenda rally in Albany.

By Kyle Hughes
NYSNYS News


ALBANY, N.Y. (March 4) Thousands of children and adults supporting Gov. Andrew Cuomo's education agenda rallied outside the Capitol Wednesday, focusing on the fact 800,000 students in grades 3-8 do not have basic math and reading skills.

"We need more excellent schools today," Lisa Leslie, the WNBA basketball star, told the crowd, after recounting her experience attending a bad public school in California. "Not 10 years Parents, continue to fight for that. We need great schools now."

"We are not settling for less no child should be held hostage in a failing school," said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, one of the state officials who also turned out for the rally organized by downstate charter school leaders. "We are going to tell Albany, 'Don't Steal Possible.'"

She was referring to the theme of the rally, which was promoted on social media with the hashtag #dontstealpossible.

"We're all here to just kind of raise awareness, to let everyone know and do as much as we can to instill all the good, positive things in the kids," said Grammy award winning R&B singer and actress Ashanti Douglas. The Long Island native spoke to reporters after performing some of her hits for the crowd.

Organizers said 13,000 people attended the rally, arriving in Albany on buses in a caravan that closed off city streets. The number could not be independently confirmed, but the crowd of adults and kids outfitted in "Don't Steal Possible" red ski caps and t-shirts filled the east side of the Capitol. The children were on what was termed a "civic field trip" to Albany.

"The vast majority of schools here today have such an extended school day and such an extended school year, that they are learning at such a high level, that a single civil school trip just shows them so much more of what's possible," said Jeremiah Kittredge, the CEO of Families for Excellent Schools, a group that supports charter school expansion.

The 160 charter schools that participated in the rally included ones in Albany and Troy, organizers said.

The rally came in a week that saw the fight over education policy intensify. About 1,000 teachers held an impromptu rally late Monday afternoon in the Capitol, chiding Cuomo for what they see as his attempt to blame them for poor outcomes in public schools.

Cuomo is seeking tougher teacher evaluations, changes in tenure rules to make it easier to fire bad teachers, and expanding the number of charter schools in neighborhoods where public schools are failing to meet tougher new standards for student achievement.

Organizers cited statistics to make the case that many children in New York are stuck in bad public schools:

"At least 800,000 students in grades 3-8 failed to meet proficiency standards in English or Math last year.

"New York City is host to more than 300 severely failing schools, and more than half of them have been failing for multiple years.

"In 58% of schools in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers, 90% or more of children failed 2014 state exams in English Language Arts and math or were not college ready.

"At only four schools in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers do a majority of students achieve at grade level or graduate ready for college. Parents are starved of high-quality school options for their children.

"Outside of the Big Four and NYC school districts, another 75 schools across the state are failing."

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