Educators, parents and students gathered outside state Sen. Ken LaValle’s Mount Sinai office Tuesday with one clear message: They won’t forget he voted “yes” on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget when it’s their turn to vote in November 2016.
Nearly 100 people rallied in front of the North Country Road office of LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), holding signs letting the senator and the community know they were upset he voted in favor of a portion of the 2015-16 state budget that amended the teacher evaluation system, lengthened the time before teachers can gain tenure and created new designations for failing schools.
Beth Dimino, president of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association and a John F. Kennedy Middle School teacher, said her association and other groups coordinated the protest to show the senator they don’t take his vote lightly.
“The purpose of this rally is to remind Mr. LaValle that his vote in favor of Mr. Cuomo’s budget and anti-public education agenda will be remembered by the parents and taxpayers in the November elections,” Dimino said.
LaValle, who was in Albany at the time of the protest, was just re-elected to his 20th term in the Senate and will be up for election again next year.
He said in a statement Wednesday, “We improved on what the governor put in his budget proposal and I fully expect we will continue to fix the education piece, with the final result addressing parents and educators concerns.”
April Quiggle, a Port Jefferson parent, said she came out to show how disappointed she is in the senator she always supported.
“I feel betrayed by him,” Quiggle said.
Not one person at the education rally was without a sign. Young children also held signs.
Miller Place resident Erik Zalewski, who teaches in the Middle Country school district, said LaValle and other politicians who voted in favor of the governor’s reform sold out educators and kids.
“It seems money is more important than the children,” Zalewski said.
Lucille McKee, president of the Shoreham-Wading River Teachers Association, joined in to let everyone know she is tired of non-educators making decisions about education.
Halfway through the rally supporters broke out in a cheer: “Ken LaValle you let us down, Ken LaValle you let the students down, Ken LaValle we will not forget!”
Many parents at the picket said they tried numerous times to reach out to the senator by phone and email and never heard back.
Hundreds of cars drove by as everyone protested on the corner of the road. Drivers honked, gave thumbs-up signs and cheered, letting the protesters know they supported them.