School Cuts Hurt!
Three weeks into the 2011- 2012 school year, local parents, students, teachers and community members presented personal stories detailing how the recent $1.3 billion cut to public education have impacted their schools. Parents spoke of what it feels like to lose 2600 teachers, 777 school employees, as well as art, music, tutoring services, afterschool, guidance counselors, and more. The first-hand testimonials were given to send a message to the Governor and legislature that “School Cuts Hurt.” City Councilmembers Robert Jackson (Chair of the Education Committee), Brad Lander (Chair of the Progressive Caucus) and Ydanis Rodriguez (Chair of the Higher Education Committee) also spoke at the event about how the cuts were hurting their communities, and all advocated for the extension of the millionaire’s tax.
The group of parents and advocates called on their elected officials to take action to restore cuts to classroom instruction and programs, and protested layoffs of key City schools personnel in their testimonials:
“Just weeks into the school year, the stories of pain due to massive state education budget cuts are being echoed across the entire state of New York. Effective programs have been scaled back or eliminated. In addition, more than 10,000 teaching and other critical staff positions have been cut. For many students, particularly in high needs schools, the cuts will serve as a huge stumbling block to their educational success. Parents and students are calling out to the Governor and their legislators for help,” said Nikki Jones, Communications Director for the Alliance for Quality Education.
“We want to let Gov. Cuomo know that NYC schools are hurting from his cuts. Twenty-six hundred teachers have been lost through attrition. Almost 800 school employees who are the backbone of the school system have been fired. Art classes, music, tutoring services, after-school programs and guidance counselors have been eliminated. This is unacceptable,” said Portia Armstrong with the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice.
“We are losing over $160,000 this year at my daughter’s school, PS 121, in the Bronx. This means we either must cut three teachers, all of our after-school programs, or all of our school aides. I don’t know how we’re going to survive when we are already falling behind,” said Michelle Chapman, NYCC parent leader.
“Governor Cuomo’s heartless budget hurts our children, hurts their learning, hurts our schools and hurts our communities. My children’s school, PS 73, in the Bronx, is losing $146,938! That is about what a millionaire makes in a month!” said Millie Vargas, parent leader from United Parents of Highbridge, Bronx.
“I don’t want to hear from Gov. Cuomo that these school cuts won’t hurt. That’s outrageous. Our kids are struggling and our classes are already overcrowded. At my school we’re losing an art teacher, our after-school program—and its very likely that I will be losing my parent coordinator,” said Carlos Ruiz, PA president of the High School for Law in District 3, Manhattan.
“How can our top city and state officials justify cutting the heart out of public schools, which overwhelmingly serve poor and working class kids, in order to provide still more for the wealthy? Our district schools have been decimated losing most of their art, music, gym, tutoring and after school programs. Now we’re cutting classroom teachers and parent coordinators, our kids are facing class sizes of 30 or more, and our principals cant even afford toilet paper. All so that the most fortunate among us get a tax break? It’s absolute lunacy,” said Noah E Gotbaum, a public school parent of three and a member of Community District Education Council 3, representing the Upper West Side and parts of West/Central Harlem.
“What’s happened this year is simply unconscionable. Kindergartens at 27 kids per class; 2nd and 3rd grades at 36 and 37; high school classes at 41. Despite a state law to reduce class size, classes are the highest they have been in 11 years. The Mayor ran for office in 2002 on a promise to reduce class size in the early grades, and instead he has done the opposite. And now, instead of abiding by the building code and reducing class size by hiring new teachers, the DOE is threatening to eject children from their neighborhood schools. The sad reality is that the mayor and the governor have been catering to the millionaires and the billionaires over the needs of our kids, and that has got to stop,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.
“In my son’s school, PS/IS 187, continued budget cuts have translated into the loss of a middle school principal, an art teacher for the elementary school, a science teacher for grade K to 2, and after-school enrichment classes for all children. I cannot fathom how with these cuts the state and the city expect a solid school like PS/IS 187 to improve—or even maintain academic achievement,” said Tory Frye, parent from PS/IS 187 in Washington Heights.
“I was shocked to find that this year’s budget cuts led 34 students to be squished together elbow-to-elbow within a classroom in 5th grade—that’s two students above the absolute maximum permitted amount of 32 students,” said Summer Lord, a parent from PS/IS 217 in Roosevelt Island. “I’m ready to fight as long as I need to, because Governor Cuomo’s cuts are directly squeezing out the opportunities in my child’s future.”
Across the state, there will be a total of eight “School Cuts Hurt” events varying from rallies to press conferences. Other events will be held in Massena, Patchouge, Long Island, Rochester, Poughkeepsie, Albany, Buffalo and Syracuse.
Sponsored by: City Council Education Chair Robert Jackson, Alliance for Quality Education, NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, African American Clergy and Elected Officials, Charity B.C. of Christ, Class Size Matters, NY Communities for Change, Make the Road NY, Cody Cares, Churches United to Save and Heal, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition, New York Divinity School, Mirabal Sisters, Citizen Action of NY, Center for Arts Education and Coalition for Asian American Children and Families.