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Sun., Dec. 21
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Potsdam students attend education funding rally

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POTSDAM - Students, teachers, administrators and parents from around New York state descended upon the capitol building in Albany to attend a rally lobbying the governor and legislature for more equitably distributed education aid.

Nine students from April Barnes’s AP Government class at Potsdam High School represented their school. “I thought it was really important because of the inequity in education funding,” Ms. Barnes said, adding the problem is more than just the tax cap.

“It’s not just the tax cap, because people here voted with the super majority to override it,” she said.

Ms. Barnes said her biggest fear is that cuts to education aren’t only going to have a negative impact on student’s high school careers, but could potentially set them back for the rest of their lives.

“I’ve had students go to Harvard, but these days colleges are so competitive. They want students to take all these AP classes and participate in all these activities,” she said, adding students from poorer rural districts like Potsdam are at a disadvantage.

“It’s not their fault their families don’t have money and they deserve the same opportunities as everyone else,” she said, suggesting wealtheir families can afford to provide their children with music lessons or other activities even if their school is no longer offering them.

High school senior Joseph A. Baxter attended the trip and agreed with Ms. Barnes’s perspective.

“Do schools want an aspiring lawyer who took woodshop or do they want aspiring lawyers who took AP Government?” he asked.

Mr. Baxter said he went on the trip because “education funding is pretty significant.”

James L. Merrill also attended the rally.

“It was good to fight for equity in funding for our schools, because up here we don’t get the same funding per pupil as some of the downstate schools, especially city schools,” he said.

For Mr. Merrill, who has a younger brother in seventh grade, the school’s financial problems are especially troubling.

“He’s not going to get the same opportunities I did unless we get some more equitable funding,” he said.

Ms. Barnes said the timing of the rally, which came prior to the release of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s draft budget plan, was an attempt to be proactive rather than reactive.

“If they don’t see the problem or hear the problem, they’ll ignore the problem,” she said, adding the rally, which was organized by the lobbying group Educate New York Now, received press coverage from as far away as Seattle.

“If he (Gov. Cuomo) wants to be president, this could hamper that,” she said.

Upon returning from the trip. Mr. Merrill wrote a piece for the school’s PTA newsletter. “Our opportunities aren’t the only thing being lost here, either; when my generation loses its opportunities, our population loses its future, because my generation is the future,” he wrote.

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