On behalf of the Chair of our Education Committee, Assembly Member Catherine Nolan, Assembly Members Addie Russell and Phil Ramos who are here, and all of our colleagues in the Assembly Majority, let me begin by thanking you for coming to Albany to speak up for all of the students and parents who could not be here to advocate for fairness.
And while I am here, let me take a moment to thank AQE - and especially, your Executive Director, Billy Easton - for your leadership and for the courage of your convictions in standing up for fairness and equity in education funding; in standing up for fairness and equity in our tax structure.
Because I'm fairly certain it was not students who made those terrible gambles that caused this economic hardship; nor was it working families who took those devastating risks that cost people their jobs, their homes and their pensions.
But it was and it is working families and students, the working poor and the least fortunate who have been hurt most dearly by the Great Recession.
This is why my Assembly Majority colleagues and I would not relent in our demand for an income tax schedule that is more progressive.
Thanks to the bipartisan agreement worked out with the Governor and with the Senate, and thanks to your persistence, we achieved a middle-class tax cut, reducing the state's projected budget gap by half and guaranteeing that the state's investment in education and health care will be increased in the coming fiscal year.
That's an important step in the right direction, but it's only the beginning.
I and my Assembly Majority colleagues believe that this state should re-establish the ladder to economic security; the ladder that generations of New Yorkers climbed to get out of poverty.
In his Message to the Legislature last week, the Governor spoke about the need to create jobs. All New Yorkers should support him in accomplishing this goal.
We need to make sure that the jobs being created from those investments pay well enough to provide our working families with a decent standard of living.
We must narrow the income gap that has been so destructive to our economy and for this reason, the Assembly Majority will pass legislation to increase the minimum wage.
At the same time, we will advance a tax cut for the working poor to ensure that they can keep more of their hard-earned paychecks.
We all know that education is "the great equalizer" and we all know it is a key rung on the ladder to economic security.
When it comes to education, I would respectfully disagree with the Governor on one point. The most powerful lobbying group for our students is their parents. This is beyond dispute.
When it comes to our state government, no group of leaders has been a more effective lobbying group for the children in our classrooms and for the young children needing early education than have the members of the New York State Assembly.
For ten years, we fought to gain enactment of the CFE court decision and we led the effort to establish "foundation aid" so that school districts throughout the state would have a predictable, stable and equitable source of aid.
We are continuously working, every day, to keep higher education affordable and our opportunity programs accessible, and we intend to increase the state's investment in our community colleges, which are a critical gateway to advanced college degrees and to the high-tech skills that are being demanded in today's job market.
To my Assembly Majority colleagues and I every day is "Education Day" in the State of New York. We have worked tirelessly - and will continue to work tirelessly - to ensure that each and every student is afforded the high quality education they deserve.
Funding is an important tool, but we also need to end overcrowding and to reduce class size. We need the best teachers and we need our students to have access to technology.
I've said this many times over the years. Building cleanrooms and labs and high-tech facilities without also building up the workforce that can utilize technology, is like trying to build a house from the roof down.
It is imperative that our students have the knowledge and the skills to compete against the world for the jobs and opportunities of tomorrow.
So I ask you, the members of AQE, to continue to be our partners, to continue "speaking out," and to help us build that ladder that will enable you - and future classes of students - to achieve financial security and so much more.
As Billy will tell you, my door, Assemblywoman Nolan's door, and the doors of our Assembly Majority colleagues are always open to AQE.
Thank you, again for being here. Thank you for listening. Make the most of your time in Albany, and as every parent tells every student … KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!