200 attend education forum at Strough

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A forum Tuesday night on negative effects of state funding policies for schools and the community attracted a “lot of new faces” in boosting awareness of the issues, says Rome Teachers Association President Robert Wood.

Numerous business owners and others from “outside...the Rome City School District community” were among about 200 attendees for the one-hour-plus session at Strough Middle School, Wood said Wednesday. They were in addition to teachers, parents and other school district representatives, he added.

The RTA had circulated information about the forum in seeking to encourage attendance by a bigger cross-section of the public including businesses, compared to other recent local forums and rallies, said Wood. He remarked, “we hit the targets we were hoping to hit,” adding the range of the turnout was “uplifting for me” and he was “very pleased to see my fellow community members;” among others attending were people from the religious sector, arts and entertainment categories, and some non-school district unions. The issue “gets better only if the whole community is involved,” he added.

Forum speakers included Rob Weil, director of field programs for education issues at the American Federation of Teachers; Rick Timbs, director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium and an educational finance consultant; and Alliance for Quality Education Executive Director Billy Easton. Topics included inequities in state funding for education; school officials have said state aid formulas have not been observed for several years. Also addressed were Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed education reforms that Wood said have been “proven to fail” elsewhere.

Further local education forums on the issues are anticipated as the 2015-16 state budget including education funding gets finalized, said Wood; the budget is to approved by April 1.

A similar forum was held on Thursday last week in Whitesboro, hosted by the Whitesboro Teachers Association, other community members and the Alliance for Quality Education. Topics included schools around the state not being “fully or fairly funded,” plus issues with high-stakes testing of students and linking their results to teacher evaluations, the alliance said.

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