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Anti-Cuomo rally draws hundreds

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

Thursday night's rally against Governor Cuomo's education policies drew a massive crowd to West Seneca West High School.

Event sponsors say Cuomo never responded to an offer to appear, so they had a full-sized cardboard image ready to go on stage.

Organizers estimate around 1500 people were in the three rooms to listen to attacks on the governor's education fiscal policies and attacks on teachers.

Much of the momentum for this event came from West Seneca Superintendent Mark Crawford who defended teachers and attacked testing and budget cuts.

"I would say to the governor that where schools are failing, it seems to me, teacher performance is not the real issue. The real issues are matters like social capital, attendance, poverty and culture in the schools," Crawford told a cheering crowd.

It was all a full-throated attack on the way the governor wants all schools to change, not just failed schools. Teachers say they are doing their best in difficult situations like the constant changes in curriculum and tests.

For Dave Penn, it's doubly difficult. He's an eighth grade math teacher in Lancaster and a school board member in Akron. Penn says the constant cuts can get close to home.
"We did that in past years. My wife, standing next to me, was one of them that was cut to half time. Her job actually now is completely gone. Luckily, she had dual certification and moved into a different position. But, it has been a financially stressful thing and it's difficult to watch those programs there that aren't available for kids."

Teachers say courses are pushing material down into lower grades so kindergarten students are expected to arrive knowing how to read, know their colors, know enough to sit still and listen to teachers.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.