Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, came to Buffalo today to lend his support to teachers and parents protesting the rushed action taken by the School Board to allow charter schools to take over their public schools facing closure. Hawkins visited a school and a community center, toured low-income neighborhoods with anti-poverty activists, and met with school teachers and administrators.
Hawkins has been touring the state in the last week as part of his ongoing effort to ban fracking. He visited communities already suffering from fracking last week in Pennsylvania. Hawkins also wants the state to take action on global warming by committing to a 100% clean energy system by 2030. Building out the full renewable energy system in New York in the next 15 years will create 4.5 million jobs while lowering electric rates to half of what fossil and nuclear fuels will cost in the next decade, according to a recent study by Cornell and Stanford researchers.
Hawkins, who is polling at 9%, has picked up the endorsement of a number of teacher organizations and education advocates, including the Buffalo Teachers Federation and Diane Ravitch.
Hawkins is a strong critic of charter schools, citing them as part of the drive by the Cuomo administration for the privatization of the education system. Hawkins has also said that many of the problems with schools in disadvantaged communities are attributable to the broader social problems of poverty and segregation.
“Real education reform requires broader social reform to end poverty concentrated in disadvantaged communities by race and class segregation,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins has also said if elected that he will make up the $9 billion cumulative shortfall in Foundation Aid funding for schools enacted in 2007 to satisfy the court decision on the Campaign Fiscal Equity case.
“I want to fully fund public schools. We need to end the property tax cap and the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which has balanced the state budget on the backs of our children by cutting state aid to schools for the last five years. We need to stop competitive grants for school funding, which puts the poorer school districts at a further disadvantage. Many classrooms are overcrowded. That's hurting children's education. Politicians are blaming teachers instead of themselves for these conditions," Hawkins continued.
"Policies supported by the Democratic and Republican parties in this state are creating a dual school system: separate and unequal. Cuomo's high-stakes testing regime is failing the underfunded schools and teachers of low-income children in order to privatize the schools as charters and downgrade the teaching profession. This agenda won't do anything to improve education for our students who have the greatest needs. It just punishes them for having those needs," Hawkins added.
A majority of the board last week decided to actively seek charter school proposals for Bennett, East and Lafayette high schools, as well as Martin Luther King Multicultural School 39 and “any other location” in Buffalo.
"I have long called for a ban on fracking because gas is just another fossil fuel that contributes to global warming. But when you drive through communities that are experiencing fracking, and you hear and see the wells and truck traffic, you talk to people living nearby, it highlights why no one should have to live near a fracking well," said Hawkins.
"Cuomo has been telling voters that he will make his fracking decision based on science, but his attempts to edit and delay a scientific study to play down the environmental risks of fracking have made it clear that he really means science fiction," added Hawkins.
While Cuomo has held off on giving the green light to the use of fracking for natural gas, his administration has pushed forward the construction of the infrastructure that supports fracking, including pipelines and storage facilities. His administration has also permitted fracking waste from Pennsylvania to be disposed of in New York, something even pro-fracking Astorino signed a law to prohibit in his own Westchester County.