Long Island protesters rally against Gov. Cuomo's education reform plan

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Friday, March 13, 2015

WESTBURY (WABC) -- Demonstrators gathered on Long Island Thursday night to denounce New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's education reform plans.

Dozens of protesters rallied in Old Westbury to voice their opposition to the reforms.

The governor wants to make teacher evaluations rely more heavily on state tests, and allow failing schools to be taken over by outside groups.

Critics call it teacher bashing.

On Wednesday, hundreds of public school students and parents rallied at the New York state Capitol to urge lawmakers to boost school funding and reject Cuomo's proposals.

The event was the latest held by both sides in the increasingly contentious debate over state education policy, and it comes as Cuomo and top lawmakers work to negotiate a budget compromise.

Many public school teachers and their supporters oppose Cuomo's proposals to create tougher tenure rules, revise teacher evaluations and authorize more charter schools.

In his $142 billion state budget, Cuomo recommends increasing overall spending on K-12 education by $1.1 billion - but only if lawmakers agree to his reforms.

"The governor has a lot of cockamamie proposals that will really damage schools," said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, which organized the rally.

Easton called for nearly $2 billion in new school spending. He says overall funding remains $5.9 billion below levels prescribed in a 2006 court ruling.

Cuomo defended his proposals on Wednesday, saying increased funding alone won't solve the problems facing the state's schools.

"It's the system that is not performing," he said at an event in Rochester. "It's been too much of a bureaucracy."

Cuomo and top lawmakers are now in talks over the budget plan, which they hope to finalize by April 1.

Last week, thousands of charter school supporters held their own rally to back Cuomo's ideas. On Wednesday, a smaller group of ministers came to the Capitol to lobby for the proposals.

"We stand with our governor," said the Rev. Johnnie Green Jr., senior pastor of Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)