En Español Know Your Rights
Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Hey, Mayor Bloomberg, Don't Shortchange Our Schoolkids

‘We face
uncertain times ahead, but this much is certain: We must keep the promises to
our kids."

This is the
message that hundreds of parents, students, education activists and elected
officials who Wednesday rallied at City Hall wanted to make sure Mayor
Bloomberg would hear.

Organized by
the Keep the Promises Coalition, the demonstration made clear that
the education budget cuts that are already undermining public education are not
– and should not be – an option.

"We
hope that the governor and the mayor will pay attention to this
demonstration," said Manuel Castro, an organizer with Make the Road New York, a group that is part of the coalition.

"We
hope they realize that the school budget cuts are unacceptable for the
community because they compromise the quality of the education of our
children."

The
coalition – a diverse group of parents, education advocates, community
organizations, civic groups, clergy, labor unions and elected officials – is
leading the campaign against the cuts.

It is asking
Mayor Bloomberg not to forget his promises to build more schools, fund full-day
pre-kindergarten, decrease class sizes, improve middle schools, expand English
Language Learners programs, and keep after-school programs and tutoring
services.

Instead, the
city is proposing more than $324 million in education cuts in the 2009 budget,
and imposed a surprise midyear cut of $100 million. The coalition is demanding
the restoration of these reductions – current and proposed.

The budget
reductions already have wreaked havoc in the education system, according to a
survey of 375 New York
public schools conducted by the coalition.

"It is
not fair to the kids," said Lidia Rosa Noreña, whose 11-year old daughter
attends Public School 150 in Sunnyside, Queens.
"They are the ones suffering the consequences."

Schools
already have had to "reduce or eliminate after-school and weekend
programs, tutoring services and extracurricular activities while coping with
shortages of textbooks and instructional supplies along with higher class
sizes," the coalition said in a written statement.

"What
is more worrisome to us is that these cuts would certainly mean an even greater
dropout rate," said Emma Vidal, whose two daughters attend PS 20 on Staten Island. "For working parents, the
after-school programs are a necessity."

Vidal, a
member of El Centro de Hospitalidad, a Staten Island
community group, knows that if the proposed budget cuts are approved, schools
will have an even more difficult time next year.

Not
surprisingly, schools with large numbers of low-income, English Language
Learner or special education students will be the hardest hit.

Last year,
Mayor Bloomberg promised to allocate more resources to try to reduce the number
of dropouts among the 14% of the city’s students who are recently arrived
immigrants and not yet proficient in English.

Yet now he
is proposing to eliminate an existing allocation of $15 million destined for 113
English-Language-Learner teaching positions this year, and some 226 positions
next year.

But the
coalition thinks that before going ahead with cutting the public schools
budget, the Department of Education should open its books.

"Cut
consultants, no-bid contracts and excessive testing procedures," the
coalition is asking. "Do whatever it takes to make sure budget cuts do not
hurt children or core classroom services."

Sounds like a great idea.