Thursday's at Ward Melville High School is intended to draw attention to the overall problem of the lack of public school funding from the state and not solely the tax cap, according to Deanna Bavlnka, a school board trustee who is helping to publicize the rally.
The state has slashed public school funding to Long Island schools by $714 million over the past three years – including $5 million from Three Village's allotment – thus motivating the rally, according to the Long Island Progressive Coalition, one of the groups facilitating it.
The groups Alliance for Quality Education and Educate NY Now are also involved in the planning of the event, which will take place at multiple schools on Long Island. Bavlnka also clarified that the rally is not an official school district event, but rather a community event that will simply take place on school grounds.
Bill Connors, another school board trustee, said at Tuesday's board meeting that ten years ago the district's budget consisted of 31 percent state funding, while this year, the budget only consists of 19.9 percent state funding.
Bavlnka said that for every dollar Long Island taxpayers spend on education, only 23 cents gets sent back to the island's 124 school districts.
"It’s kind of depressing that we spend a lot of money on Long Island, but we’re not getting it back for our students," Bavlnka said at Tuesday's board meeting. "We need to make that part of the rally."
The school district has already started looking at the upcoming budget season, with administrators predicting a gap of $8.4 million between income and expenditures, with a leeway of less than $3 million that can be raised by increasing the tax levy due to the tax cap.
That number doesn't include impending cuts to federal funding via the Federal Budget Control Act of 2011, against which the school board recently voted to take a stance. Connors along with trustee Susanne Mendelson will soon travel to a state conference about budget caps to urge the government to repeal that act.
Bavlnka said the rally is also intended to draw attention to unfunded state mandates. Those are programs that the state requires school districts to implement but for which it does not provide funding.
"There’s tons of things that can be done" about those mandates, Bavlnka said. "These mandates drive schools' costs. The opportunities to relieve schools of mandates have been identified, but they’re not being acted on."