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Seven 50-Foot Scrolls To Mayor Bloomberg With More Than 18,000 Signatures Opposing Classroom Cuts

June 16, 2011

Parents, students and community members delivered an enormous petition to Mayor Bloomberg, signed by more than 18,000 New Yorkers opposing city cuts to schools. The scrolls were rolled down the steps of City Hall with the names of the petition signers, and the scrolls extended across the City Hall courtyard. The groups called on Mayor Bloomberg and City Council to reject the Mayor’s proposal to slash $350 million from classrooms by eliminating more than 6,000 teaching positions as well as afterschool programs, arts programs, tutoring, sports, counseling, professional development and other essential services. Participants called attention to the City’s failure to utilize an additional $205 million in state education funding for schools and demanded that the funding be re-appropriated.

In addition, the Independent Budget Office estimates that the Department of Education could realize savings of at least $100 million through more accurate estimates of teacher attrition. Parents expressed concern that it’s not enough to simply prevent layoffs, because students will suffer from teacher attrition as well.

Participants included; Alliance for Quality Education, New York City Coalition for Educational Justice, New York Communities for Change, Class Size Matters, United Neighborhood Houses, Mirabal Sisters and the United Federation of Teachers.

“The fact is there are no excuses for the Mayor’s proposal to eliminate 6000 teaching positions.  My son’s school, High School for Law, has already had to eliminate its after school as a result of last year’s budget cuts.  When the Mayor received over $200 million dollars from the State he could have chosen to use the money to maintain positions, instead he chose not to. That’s why I signed the petition,” said Carlos Ruiz, PTA President and Alliance for Quality Education parent leader.

“The City budget released in May shows that DOE received $205 million more in state school aid than was contained in the Mayor’s preliminary budget released in February. We were shocked to see that these funds were not used to restore cuts to the classroom, instead the Mayor has proposed to use these funds to reduce the City funds committed to the DOE by $207 million. There are no excuses Mayor Bloomberg, you know the right thing to do is to not balance the budget on the backs of our kids and the communities who need funding the most!” said Ocynthia Williams, parent leader with the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice.

“The Mayor’s proposed layoffs and cuts to classrooms will devastate our schools and the public has quite clearly had enough of City Hall’s political games. They know that children will pay the price for these bad decisions and school communities are coming together like never before to speak out against this injustice. The Mayor’s budget shouldn’t be balanced on the backs of our children and working communities of New York City,” said Michael Mulgrew, United Federation of Teachers, President.
“High needs schools, which are mostly populated by children of color and impoverished children, have been disadvantaged for far too long. The Mayor’s proposed budget cut does not address the concerns of working families in my district or throughout the city.  For every teaching position that is left unfilled and every eliminated program there will be a consequence that students simply should not be subjected to. There are other options that, if implemented, would protect NYC students. It’s important that funding intended for schools be used only to springboard our children’s future,” said Senator Kevin Parker, representing the 21st Senate District.

“I signed the petition because I’m upset that Mayor Bloomberg would want to leave our children further behind” said Yolanda Santos, a member of Mirabal Sisters Community Center in Washington Heights. “Instead of taking responsibility, he is failing our children and passing the buck by not fighting for the Millionaires’ Tax or seriously looking at cost-saving options within DOE. Our children may become less motivated to graduate on-time or may drop out if we lose even more art, music, after-school programs, Academic Intervention Services, guidance counselors and other essential programs.”

“This past weekend, myself and more than 60 other interfaith leaders prayed that Mayor Bloomberg would find the wisdom to protect our children’s education against ‘immoral’ cuts and that he would use ‘sensible solutions’ to balance the budget. It is very disheartening to see that the millions restored by the State earlier this year for our children’s education and to alleviate these cuts, never went to serve that purpose. The faith leaders of the city may need to do some more praying for the Mayor because restoring those monies seem like sensible solutions to me,” said Pastor Kevin Osbourne, Refuge Church of God.

“The Mayor’s budget cuts nearly $140 million from early childhood education and youth programs.  This budget will erode the City’s capacity to prepare our youngest New Yorkers for school – 7,000 child care slots will be lost due to cuts in early childhood education classrooms, and family childcare programs. And 50,000 fewer youth will have Out-of-School Time afterschool programs, Beacon programs, summer jobs, and recreation, social, cultural, and leadership programs to attend.  Our children and youth are the future of our City” said Anthony Ng, Director of Policy & Advocacy at United Neighborhood Houses.  “We must preserve the resources which prepare them to start school ready to learn and keep them active and engaged after school and on weekends and holidays.”

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters said, “One of the ways in which a city determines its future and reveals its soul is how it treats its children.  The Mayor’s cuts show that rather than putting children first, he is putting them last.  He has wasted hundreds of millions on no-bid contracts, consultants, testing and growing the bureaucracy; and instead intends to further undermine the most important thing of all: the personal relationship between every student and his or her teacher.  Reducing class size is the top priority of NYC parents according to the DOE’s own surveys.  Yet already, class sizes have sharply increased in recent years and school level spending has been cut by 12 percent. It would be devastating to our children if the city didn’t save all six thousand teaching positions, because otherwise, our schools will return to the dark ages of class size.”

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