Is Governor Andrew Cuomo holding public schools in New York State hostage?

That's the feeling from hundreds of teachers, administrators and parents here in Central New York and all around the state.

At an Alliance for Quality Education rally held at JFK middle school in Utica, the message was clear that public school children are the ones suffering from the Governor's latest budget proposals.

Cuomo's administration is not planning to release vital state aid information to public schools unless the schools pass a series of reforms according to Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi.

Brindisi says in the past, school districts typically have an estimate of what kind of state aid will be available, but now Cuomo says schools must pass these reforms before they can have access to the aid numbers.

Brindisi agrees that this move amounts to holding schools hostage.

Aside from the aid numbers themselves, the New York State Board of Regents and more than 80 members of the State Legislature recommended a minimum of $2 billion to equalize school funding, but in this year's budget Cuomo proposed only $1.1 billion.

Many feel that this means the Governor and his staff simply ignored the needs of public education in New York, and especially in Utica and the Mohawk Valley.

Rick Allen is a teacher at Proctor High School.

Allen added that the underfunding of schools is hurting both teachers and students, because in districts like Utica and Herkimer there simply isn't enough money to properly educate students.

Trinh Troung is a senior at Proctor and also a member of the refugee community in Utica. She says education is a cornerstone of social mobility and equality because it is education that ultimately allows people to become what they aspire to be in America.

She feels that Governor Cuomo is shortchanging the education budget and thus directly denying millions of New York students the opportunity to go chase their dreams.

She says for the refugee community especially, education is sometimes their one shot to pull themselves out of poverty and become equal members of society, and Governor Cuomo's budget is taking that opportunity away.

Brindisi says a possible solution is to continue to pressure the Assembly, and he plans to look into the possibility of internally finding the state aid numbers through the Department of Education and give them to the school districts so they can begin their budget planning processes.

He added that the one positive to come out of all this is that more people are focused on education issues in the state than ever before.

He says if you care about your children sitting in classes of 30 or more; cutbacks to AP courses, language arts and extracurricular activities; contact your legislators, the Governor's office and attend the rallies to show your support so that a strong message can be sent to Albany that education is paramount in New York State.