by Carolina Pichardo | DNAInfo.com/June 8, 2017
WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Following the age-old tradition of grassroots school fundraisers, more than a dozen Uptown parents this week set up a “symbolic” bake sale and lemonade stand to raise the $55 million they said is owed to local schools in state funding.
District 6 families displayed crumb cake to represent the “crumbs” being funneled down to the area's schools, and they specifically criticized State Senator Marisol Alcantara for not doing more to help.
Parents — from schools like Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS), J.H. 52, P.S. 132 Juan Pablo Duarte — organized the event Tuesday in front of the Castle Bridge School with the support of Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), a nonprofit that has been fighting more than a decade for the state to make good on a court settlement to fully fund public schools.
The state, according to AQE, is “violating the constitutional rights of millions of New York students by deliberately underfunding public schools.”
Middle school parent Hilda Martinez, whose son goes to J.H. 52 in Inwood, said the funding would help provide schools with needed resources.
“We have a library [space], but no books or librarian. We cannot afford either, so this funding would be so important for our school,” Martinez said.
Martinez said this money is even more essential as J.H. 52’s neighbor, the Inwood Library, is slated to lose its space temporarily during construction of a new housing development there.
Families pointed fingers at Alcantara and condemned her membership in the Independent Democratic Conference, which they said caucuses with the Republicans who have stonewalled giving the city more school funding. Her district stretches along the West Side of Manhattan from Chelsea up to Washington Heights and Inwood to parts of The Bronx.
The spokesman for the IDC, however, said the members of the group caucus “separately and independently.”
Representatives from Alcantara’s team said she’s been working for the area’s schools, doling out $50,000 last month in funding to install air conditioners for PS 132 Juan Pablo Duarte School, receiving praise from leaders like Manuel Ramirez, the superintendent and the principal of the school, Xiomara Nova.
They also noted that dozens of constituents rallied in front of her office on May 25 with handmade signs that read “Latina Power” and “Marisol Fights for Us.”
But parents like Martinez questioned Alcantara’s efforts.
"Where is your face in all of this," said Martinez. "Don't just say you're fighting for our children, show up. Actions speak louder than words."
The lemonade stand-rally against Alcantara comes on the heels of a letter that members of the newly-formed Action Potluck NYC and True Blue NY hand-delivered to the state senator with signatures from “378 constituents asking her to leave the IDC.”
“Our goal was to get more signatures than she won by in the primaries and we did,” said Dylan Stein, member of Action Potluck NYC, who personally hand-delivered the letter. “She only won by 294.”
Alcantara is not only feeling the pressure from several parents in District 6, but also from her former opponent, Robert Jackson, who announced his bid in May to unseat the newly-elected State Senator in 2018.
Jackson is running with the full support of Micah Lasher, the other previous opponent from the 2016 elections for the state senate seat.
Josue Perez, a veteran teacher and parent with kids in the community, said local schools need the funds to make up for the growing expenses in textbooks, teachers and resources.
“We’re not asking for much,” he said. “We’re just asking for what we deserve. We want the children to be put first… first the children and then politics.”
AQE said it planned to continue protesting and setting up lemonade stands across IDC-run districts in the coming days, including one to challenge IDC-leader Jeff Klein in The Bronx and another against Jesse Hamilton from Brooklyn on Thursday, June 8, before moving to districts further north in Syracuse, Ossining and White Plains.