BRENTWOOD - A group of Long Islanders say they are shining a spotlight on an education funding fight by participating in a 150-mile walk from New York City to the state Capitol.
"All across Long Island there are school districts that are suffering, kids are not getting a quality education. And for decades the state has not been providing it for them," says Lisa Tyson, of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.
Organizers of a rally Saturday in Brentwood say October marks the 10-year anniversary of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, which directed more money into schools, especially the state's poorest districts. Advocates argue that New York still owes nearly $4 billion to communities statewide.
"Here on Long Island, it's almost $1 billion of that. Our schools are struggling," says Blanca Villanueva, of the Alliance for Quality Education. "Our school districts are doing the best they can with what they have, but when the resources aren't there, there has to be cuts."
The state budget office says that for over 10 years, per-pupil spending on education in New York has led the nation, and just last week a judge flatly dismissed the Alliance's claim and methodology. The Alliance says that is a separate lawsuit, and argues that there is a $10,000 difference in per-pupil spending in the state's highest- and lowest-needs districts.
On Sunday, demonstrators will leave New York City for a walk to Albany, which they plan to reach on Oct. 11.
"I'm walking because my sister was in kindergarten when this lawsuit was first settled and now she's a sophomore, a 10th-grader in high school," says Villaneuva. "So now will she be graduating before the funding is paid? It's another generation that has gone through our school system without the resources they need to succeed."