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'Beautiful Show of Moral Power' as NY Groups Rally to Defend Public Education

Demonstration comes as new report exposes record inequities between poor and rich school districts across the state

Demonstrators crowd the "million dollar staircase" in Albany's Capitol rotunda on Monday, January 12, 2015. (Photo: Kat Benedetti-Fisher/Twitter)

Parents, students, educators and civil rights leaders packed the Capitol building rotunda in Albany Monday afternoon to call out New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for perpetuating inequality through what they say are "immoral" education policies.

Holding signs that read "School Teachers over Hedge Funders" and "Gov. Cuomo, you say that you care, so why don't you share," demonstrators heard addresses from public education leaders before taking part in a read-in, during which people read excerpts from documents ranging from the New York State Constitution to Dr. Seuss. 

Convened by a coalition of education advocates, the protest called on the governor to "fund education fairly and equitably," back policies that protect public schools and respect parents, students and teachers, as well as "stop hedge fund billionaires from taking over public education."

The New York action was organized under the banner of Moral Monday, a grassroots movement spearheaded by the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and its leader Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, who was honored as the keynote speaker in Albany on Monday. Also in attendance were leaders from a number of national teachers unions as well as Dr. Hazel Dukes, President of the New York State NAACP.

As the demonstration unfolded, quotes from the speeches, photos and videos from the demonstration were shared widely on Twitter under the hashtags #MoralMondays or #MoralMondayNY. Progressive leader and former New York gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout called the protest a "beautiful show of moral power."

The rally comes a day after the New York Daily News published the results of a report by state education advocates which found that funding inequity between poor and rich school districts across New York has reached "record levels under Gov. Cuomo—and has soared 43% in New York City." 

The Daily News continued:

Overall, schools in poorer districts spent $8,733 per pupil less in 2012 than those from wealthier ones, an inequity that grew by nearly 9% from before Cuomo took office in 2011, according to the study by a coalition of education advocacy groups opposing many of the reforms pushed by Cuomo. 

While the 100 wealthiest districts spent on average more than $28,000 in state and local funding per kid in 2012, the 100 poorest districts in the state spent closer to $20,000 per student, the report found. 

The report was written by a coalition that includes local teachers unions, the Public Policy and Education Fund of New York, Opportunity Action, and National Opportunity to Learn.

The demonstration comes a week after community, faith, and labor groups held a vigil at the Capitol calling on state lawmakers to focus on passing "morally sound" legislation, which includes raising the minimum wage, upping public school funding and assisting low income New Yorkers.

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