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Peekskill Students, Parents, Others Stand Up For School Funding

Peekskill students, parents and educators hand-delivered letters to Sen. Terrence Murphy's Shrub Oak office asking that the state unfreeze aid and revamp the current formula for its distribution.
Peekskill students, parents and educators hand-delivered letters to Sen. Terrence Murphy's Shrub Oak office asking that the state unfreeze aid and revamp the current formula for its distribution. Photo Credit: Contributed

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- A contingent of Peekskill students, parents and educators have hand-delivered a stack of letters to Sen. Terrence Murphy’s Yorktown office asking the state to cough up millions in school aid.

The advocates are demanding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo unfreeze the state’s Foundation Aid and phase in the $11 million that the school district is owed.

They are also asking that the formula that determines the amount of aid the district gets be recalculated.

The letter-writing campaign was timed, advocates said, to coincide with Cuomo’s drafting of the state’s education budget for the 2017-2018 school year.

Murphy spokesman Matthew Slater accepted the letters on the senator’s behalf last week. Murphy, R-Yorktown, will review them before passing them on to the governor, he said.

Murphy, a small business owner, represents the 40th District.

Slater told the group that Murphy is aware of the struggle school districts such as Peekskill’s are going through.

Calling the current aid formula “archaic,” Slater told the group that Murphy plans to fight for additional funding for Peekskill and to unfreeze the money it’s owed.

“We’ll be going (to Albany) with your letters and your support and we plan to let people know that there are some real problems that we need to address,” Slater said.

While they had his ear, students told Slater that the extra money could be used for school supplies, field trips and laptop computers.

Middle school student Angeline Carlos-Caceres told the senator’s chief of staff that there aren’t enough Chromebooks to go around.

“We have five classes in six-north and we only have around 30 Chromebooks and in six-south they have five classes and they only have 20 Chromebooks,” she told him.

Meanwhile, parent Branwen MacDonald said tops on her wish list are smaller class sizes and more teacher aides.

Peekskill teachers are “fantastic” and are doing their “very best,” but “24 kids in each class is a lot,” MacDonald said.

Schools Superintendent Dr. David Fine later thanked the folks who wrote the letters as well as the ones who came out last week to show support.

“What we just did right now is called advocacy,” Fine said speaking directly to the children in the crowd. “You guys made a difference today.”

The 40th District includes the towns of Beekman, Pawling and the village of Pawling in Dutchess County; the towns of Carmel, Patterson and Southeast, and the village of Brewster in Putnam County; and the city of Peekskill, the towns of Cortlandt, Lewisboro, Mount Pleasant, New Castle, North Salem, Pound Ridge, Somers and Yorktown, the town/village of Mount Kisco, and the villages of Briarcliff Manor, Buchanan, Croton-on-Hudson, Pleasantville and Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County.

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