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Public school advocates rally at NY Capitol amid debate over funding, teachers, charters

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ALBANY, New York — Hundreds of public school students and parents rallied Wednesday at the New York state Capitol to urge lawmakers to boost school funding and reject Gov. Andrew Cuomo's education reforms.

The event was the latest held by both sides in the increasingly contentious debate over state education policy, and it comes as Cuomo and top lawmakers work to negotiate a budget compromise.

Many public school teachers and their supporters oppose Cuomo's proposals to create tougher tenure rules, revise teacher evaluations and authorize more charter schools. In his $142 billion state budget, Cuomo recommends increasing overall spending on K-12 education by $1.1 billion — but only if lawmakers agree to his reforms.

"The governor has a lot of cockamamie proposals that will really damage schools," said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, which organized the rally. Easton called for nearly $2 billion in new school spending. He says overall funding remains $5.9 billion below levels prescribed in a 2006 court ruling.

PHOTO: Gov. Andrew Cuomo address a group  during a Rotary luncheon  in Rochester, N.Y.  Wednesday, March 11, 2015.  Cuomo has suggested $1.1 billion in additional education spending _ but only if lawmakers agree to implement tougher tenure rules, teacher evaluations more reliant on student test performance and the authorization of more charter schools.   (AP Photo/Democrat & Chronicle, Jamie Germano )  MAGS OUT; NO SALES
Gov. Andrew Cuomo address a group during a Rotary luncheon in Rochester, N.Y. Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Cuomo has suggested $1.1 billion in additional education spending _ but only if lawmakers agree to implement tougher tenure rules, teacher evaluations more reliant on student test performance and the authorization of more charter schools. (AP Photo/Democrat & Chronicle, Jamie Germano ) MAGS OUT; NO SALES

Cuomo defended his proposals on Wednesday, saying increased funding alone won't solve the problems facing the state's schools.

"It's the system that is not performing," he said at an event in Rochester. "It's been too much of a bureaucracy."

Cuomo and top lawmakers are now in talks over the budget plan, which they hope to finalize by April 1.

Last week, thousands of charter school supporters held their own rally to back Cuomo's ideas. On Wednesday, a smaller group of ministers came to the Capitol to lobby for the proposals.

"We stand with our governor," said the Rev. Johnnie Green Jr., senior pastor of Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem.

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PHOTO: Public education supporters carry signs on State Street as they march to the Capitol for a rally on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. Hundreds of public school students and parents rallied at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to boost school funding and reject Gov. Andrew Cuomo's education reforms.  (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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