En Español Know Your Rights
Source: The New York Times
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Thousands Protest Budget Cuts Aimed at City Schools

Thousands
of parents, students, teachers and administrators rallied in front of City Hall
in late afternoon rain Wednesday, denouncing budget cuts to the Education Department
and demanding that the state and the city fulfill pledges they made last year
to drastically increase spending for the public schools.

“This is
all parents talk about,” said Alicia Cortes, the parent coordinator at
Intermediate School 302 in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn.
“We have been getting better for a while, and we thought there was a way to
progress, and then all of the sudden there’s these cuts. You can’t cut off
people’s legs and then expect them to succeed.”

Ms.
Cortes said she was extremely frustrated that her school had to scale back
after-school programs this year when it lost more than $107,000.

In
January, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Gov. Eliot Spitzer said a dramatic
downturn in the economy was forcing them to reduce the amount of money they had
planned to spend on schools after a longstanding education financing lawsuit
was settled last year. Schools were forced to cut 1.75 percent from their
current budgets in January, and more dramatic cuts are expected for next year.

The
protest came the day before Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein was expected to
testify about the budget cuts before the City Council’s Education Committee.
City officials arranged a background briefing with reporters before the protest
began, emphasizing that Mayor Bloomberg considered money for public schools a
priority and had increased education spending by 72 percent since 2002.

But the
figure did little to satisfy the protesters, who repeatedly chanted, “Keep the
promises!” in English and Spanish during the two-hour rally.

“I’d be
the first to acknowledge that we are spending more money,” said Ernest A.
Logan, the president of the city’s principals’ union. “But you have to remember
that we have been suffering and waiting for a long time. We cannot wait anymore.”

Many
people in the crowd lining Broadway arrived on buses provided by the teachers’
union and several community groups,** which spent weeks organizing what they
had hoped would be a large protest. When rain began in the morning, organizers
tempered their expectations and seemed happily surprised that so many people
did come.

Richard
Burgess, whose two children attend elementary and middle schools in Washington Heights, said he was fearful of losing
after-school programs and teaching assistants. “The only thing this is going to
do is hurt our children,” he said.

 

** Including Make
the Road New York