BC educators rally against state cuts

A series of rallies being called the Students First Reality Tour made a stop at Bethlehem Central High School yesterday, where dozens of BC teachers gathered with representatives from the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the Alliance for Quality Education to protest state cuts to education spending.

Speakers had harsh word for Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The state passed a budget this year that cuts aid to schools by $1.3 billion, which is less than what Cuomo had originally proposed.

David Rounds, president of the Bethlehem Central Teachers Association, said despite salary freezes from all the district's unions, taking money out of reserves and closing Clarksville Elementary, Bethlehem will still cut 32 employees next school year.

"We as a district did everything the governor suggested to cut costs," he said. "We want to make it clear to the governor that this simply is not accurate."

The BCTA agreed to a partial-year salary freeze that saved BC $1.1 million on its 2011-12 school year budget.

Statewide, it's estimated 750 teachers will lose their jobs this year, said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta. He also slammed efforts at the capitol to pass a 2 percent tax cap, which would limit municipal power to raise property taxes year-to-year.

"We know it's malarkey," he said. "We have a powerful union and we know these cuts are being felt throughout the state."

The tax cap is a perennial topic in Albany, especially around election time, but recent efforts indicate one could pass soon. Polls have shown a cap to be popular among New Yorkers, who pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation.

"I think a lot of people don't understand what it is," Pallotta said of the cap after the rally, arguing it would bring devastating results to schools without support from the state.

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