Education Cuts ‘Hurt,’ Panel Says

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(Courtesy of The Watertown Daily Times)

The effects of cuts in state funding for school districts have been taking a toll on teachers and students. On Monday, local educators made it known.

The Alliance for Quality Education is hosting 11 roundtable meetings to promote the campaign, “School Cuts Hurt,” which is calling on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and local legislators to restore funding to public schools.

Campaign Coordinator Chad Radock said the cuts schools are dealing with are causing class sizes to increase, decreasing the educational opportunities for students and raising concerns of administrators who are preparing for another budget planning season.

At Case Middle School Library, representatives from Sackets Harbor, Copenhagen, Thousand Islands and Alexandria central school districts offered first hand accounts of how the cuts have been effecting the classroom.

Lori Atkinson-Griffin, a high school English teacher and John A. Cain, a high school history teacher at Copenhagen, told panelists that students and teachers are suffering from cuts.

“Our contact time with out kids has decreased, with teachers having every single second filled up,” he said. “Those kids that need extra help don’t get it. Field trips for our students have been cut.”

The reductions have also taken a toll on the teachers.

“We also have health concerns,” Ms. Atkinson-Griffin said. “It’s only the fourth week of school and people are stressed out to the max. They’re burned out. I’ve never heard so many people say how exhausted they are.”

The teachers also said that elementary school children would not have a strong education or a foundation to build upon because so many programs have been cut. Likewise at the high school level, Sean C. Haley, a social studies teacher at Sackets Harbor, said he was upset by cuts in programs such as driver education, a program that was cut in a number of north country school districts.

“You’re looking at a program that is known to save lives, and we cut it,” he said. “It just seems unconscionable.”

Mr. Cain, who is also the vice president of Copenhagen’s teachers union, and Mr. Radock said meetings like the one held on Monday are important because it brings attention to what is going on inside the schools.

“Anything we can do to make people aware of how much these cuts hurt our kids is important,” Mr. Cain said. “We’ve taken too much away. We always took pride in saying we can do more for less but at some point it just becomes unsustainable. I think within the education community everyone is on the same page but the government in Albany is basically choosing to ignore it.”

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