SCHENECTADY, N.Y. – A New York parent is sounding off after her son came home from school with a flyer to “help us shield our students and schools from President elect Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos!”
The flyer, produced by the Schenectady Federation of Teachers union, reads:
Under their plans they will attempt to destroy public schools by handing over 20 billion in tax payer dollars to a voucher program that will only serve to line the pockets of corporate profiteers at the expense of our students.
This could cost our students in Schenectady $5 million in funding every year.
The flyer directs readers to “call your congressman and senators today” and tell them to “protect our public schools by rejecting Trump and DeVos’ plans.” It included phone numbers for the state’s senators and local congressman.
The flyer also included claims that Schenectady City Schools are “still underfunded by $52 million dollars each year” and urged readers to call state representatives and senators, as well, to demand they “fully fund public schools.”
Jolene Damian told The Daily Gazette her first grade son at Paige Elementary School came home with the flyer stuffed in one of his school folders on Tuesday.
“I was shocked that there was material being handed to my kid that blatantly creates division between my son and his president – in his eyes,” said Damian, who voted for Trump. “My 6-year-old just saw a big headline at the top that he needs to be shielded from his president.”
Damian also took to Facebook Tuesday morning to vent her frustrations.
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“I pulled this out of my 6 year olds backpack today … the school sent him home with this. In case you can’t read what I wrote on this and sent back – ‘This is shameful – how dare you send material home promoting fear and hate against our president. Don’t ever hand my child political material like this ever again!’” she wrote. “I expect my child be taught to respect his president and love his country – not begin dividing hi against his leader at 6 years old. Fail Schenectady County!”
The post, of course, sparked an immediate backlash against school and union officials online.
“This is horrible,” Sharon Stoffer wrote. “Getting rid of the teachers union is one of the greatest things we could to for a better school system.”
“Ok this is not a huge school district. And they claim to be underfunded by $52 million?” Kelly Swanson questioned. “Almost everything in this memo is a lie.”
WTEN picked up on the issue, and published public feedback during a broadcast yesterday.
“The schools shouldn’t take a position in politics and push in on the children,” Christine Mennillo wrote in to the news station on Facebook. “I believe it’s ok for the teachers and administration to have their views but to never place these views on the children. They’re there to learn not to be brainwashed.”
Schenectady Federation of Teachers President Juliet Benaquisto told The Daily Gazette the flyer was produced by the union for a Jan. 19 “day of action,” and was not supposed to go home with students.
“I regret if one ended up in a backpack,” she said, “that was a mistake.”
Schenectady superintendent Larry Spring told the news site district officials are investigating how the flyer ended up in the student’s backpack and whether other students carried them home, as well.
“That can’t get in backpacks,” he said. “We have to be really careful with those kinds of things; what we put in kids hands is essentially curriculum … it can’t be partisan.”