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West Hempstead PTSA: Write to Fight for School Aid

Students, parents and other residents urged to write letters to state politicians.

"I'm very nervous for our children," Loraine Magaraci, president of the West Hempstead PTSA, told fellow parents, teachers, school officials and local politicians gathered inside West Hempstead High School Monday night. "Trust me when I tell you, our kids are at risk of taking a very big hit next year."

Rising pension and health care costs and a dramatic drop in revenue including a proposed $522K reduction in state aid, has the West Hempstead School District facing a $2.9 million gap in revenue and expenses for next school year.

Although school officials were able to bring that figure down to $2.25 million in recent weeks by cutting out what little cushion they had built into the budget in the past to cover unanticipated expenses, it's likely that the budget the community will vote on this May will carry some drastic cuts unless West Hempstead gets some relief from Albany.

That's why during its Feb. 11 meeting, the West Hempstead PTSA kicked off a letter-writing campaign, urging parents, students and other community members to write to their state leaders asking for mandate relief and restoration of the district's education aid.

"Paper is important, sending letters is important," Magaraci said. "They count the letters that come in from a community ... We need your help."

RELATED: West Hempstead Confronts School Budget Challenges

During the last three years, West Hempstead's state aid has decreased by $4.3 million, but during that same time, the district has had to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement programs, including the new teacher evaluation system, now required by the state.

West Hempstead Superintendent of Schools John Hogan described the costly mandates placed on school districts coupled with cuts in aid as "indefensible."

Although Hogan has been in touch with NYS Assemblymen Ed Ra and Brian Curran and Senators Dean Skelos and Kemp Hannon, he said, "I can call from now until next Christmas, but if parents get involved, if parents write letters, if parents email [and call] legislators ... if you make your voice heard, that matters." 

Hogan also encouraged community members to participate in the budget process by attending the district's budget cafes and other meetings. "If you've never been involved before I am begging you, be involved this year," he said. "Across the state of New York the future of public education is on the line."

Although the PTSA has provided parents, students and other residents with a pre-written letter (see attached) they can simply print out, sign and send, Nassau County Legis. Vincent Muscarella (R-West Hempstead) encouraged community members to write to their elected officials using their own words.

Speaking at the meeting, the former New York State assemblyman said, "If I get 100 letters that are each different, either typed or emailed or handwritten to me, ... that says a little more. It says the issue was so important to you that you took the time to sit down and compose a letter on your own, which is invaluable."

Muscarella, whose own daughters graduated from West Hempstead, advised parents to make the letters as personal as possible, mentioning their children and specifically how the loss in state funding will impact them.

He added, "That says so much more to an elected official, because we're parents, we're people, we live in the community, and we believe the future of this country is our children."

Although Muscarella no longer has jurisdiction over state education funding, both he and Hempstead Town Councilman Ed Ambrosino, who was also present at the meeting, agreed to advocate for the community. Ra and Curran could not attend, but did send a representative on their behalf.

Whether you use the pre-written letter or create your own, the West Hempstead PTSA asks community members to send the correspondence to these four state politicians:

  • Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor

Executive Chamber

The State Capitol

Albany, NY 12224 

  • Dean G. Skelos

Senate Republican Conference Leader

Room 909 LOB

Albany, NY 12247 

  • Edward P. Ra

New York State Assembly

Legislative Office Building (LOB)

Albany, NY 12248

  • Brian Curran

New York State Assembly

Legislative Office Building (LOB)

Albany, NY 12248

Manny Martinez February 12, 2013 at 08:57 PM
The WHPTSA meeting last night was fantastic! The WHPTSA board is clearly doing all they can to make parents, residents, and local legislators aware of the budget challenges and to become more involved in the process. ALL residents should write to their legislators as soon as possible. The NYS budget usually is passed before or around April 1, so time is of the essence. Please send your letters today!
Felix Procacci February 13, 2013 at 11:23 AM
The biggest State mandate is the Triborough Amendment. This is why school districts need aide to increase year after year (especially with the 2% cap Law). If the State Legislators repealed Triborough, there would be virtually no school funding problems. If you want to make a real difference, tell your legislators to REPEAL TRIBOROUGH. All the other mandates your school district COMPLAIN about are INSIGNIFICANT compared to the cost of abiding by the TRIBOROUGH AMENDMENT (this mandate requires existing contracts to stay in effect until a new contract is negotiated, among other things).

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