Sunday, February 10, 2008

UFT Press Release: Coalition Launches Campaign to Protect Schools from $700 Million Cuts

Community Organizations, Education Advocates, Clergy and Labor

Unite to Urge State and City to Keep Their Budget Promises

Coalition Launches Campaign to Protect Schools from $700 Million Cuts

A diverse coalition of education advocacy groups, community organizations, clergy, labor unions and dozens of elected officials gathered on the steps of City Hall today to launch a campaign against state and city budget proposals that would cost New York City public schools about $700 million.

Members of more than 60 community groups, parent organizations and unions, as well as some 40 state and city elected officials, have formed the “Keep the Promises” Coalition in response to proposed budget reductions in education for city schools:

  • The city has imposed an immediate 1.75 percent cut to schools – a $100 million, mid-year cut that will disrupt schools’ programs, schedules and staffing. Even if mid-year cuts were a last resort, opening the NYC Department of Education books would demonstrate whether the Central Administration could take these cuts, rather than imposing them on the schools.
  • The Mayor’s 2009 budget proposal cuts NYC education by $324 million.
  • The state budget proposes to give city schools nearly $200 million less than was expected in the Contract for Excellence, stalling progress in class size reduction, full-day Pre-K expansion, improving middle schools, programs for English language learners and other programs and services.
  • The state is also proposing to cap building aid, which will slow school construction.

“After 13 years of litigation, New York State legislated a promise to add $2.35 billion in classroom operating aid for New York City over four years, Mayor Bloomberg promised to add $2.2 billion and the state further promised to provide $11.2 billion to subsidize the city’s $13.1 billion school construction plan to finally fund the constitutional right to a sound, basic education,” said Geri D. Palast, Executive Director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which took the state to court to win increased funding for New York City schools.

“Both the state and the city are proposing $700 million in cuts in these commitments,” Palast continued. “Long overdue funding of these promises tied to accountability for this ‘catch up’ plan must be immunized from short-term economic fluctuations. A generation of kids has already paid the price for delayed funding with their futures.”

“When government promises to safeguard the quality education of our children, parents and the public have a right to expect those promises to be honored,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

“In the absence of an independent Board of Education and an independent schools chancellor, public school children need champions to intervene and protect them. That’s why we formed this coalition to launch this campaign. We’re going to fight to have these funds restored because our children deserve the quality education they’ve been promised.”

The campaign will raise public awareness, lobby city and state elected officials and will include a large rally to be held in mid-March.

“The Mayor, the Governor and the state Legislature all promised to provide our school children the classroom investments needed to deliver educational quality,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education.

“The elected leadership of the city and the state promised to finally end the delays and excuses for not educating every child. Only one year after historic school funding commitments by both the city and the state, we must not break the promises to our kids. Every dollar promised must be delivered to our classrooms, and this coalition is demanding that a promise made is a promise kept.”

“The city’s and the state’s proposed budget cuts to city public schools are extremely damaging for our kids,” said Ocynthia Williams of the New York City Coalition for Education Justice. “The promise to fund programs like comprehensive middle school reforms and class-size reduction is broken, and their broken promise is a broken dream for all of our children,” she added. “Parents are not going to sit back and do nothing about this. We’re going to join the public in organizing and fighting to restore the budget.”

The mid-year budget cuts are particularly troubling and could not come at a worse time, said Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan.

“Since the Department of Education’s devastating mid-year school budget cuts were announced, there’s been much frustration and anger,” Logan said. “Budget cuts at the school level should have been the last resort, especially considering there’s been little transparency in the DOE’s central administrative cuts. Principals should not have been put in a position where the intervention programs and other school activities they vested time and money into now run the risk of being considerably downsized or eliminated altogether.”

“Immigrant kids will be among the hardest hit by these broken promises,” said Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “How can we ask immigrant kids to study hard and learn English when the city and state budgets are heading in the wrong direction and are undercutting English language learner programs?”

Other members of the coalition include: Hispanic Federation of New York State Executive Director Lillian Rodriguez Lopez; New York City Central Labor Council Executive Director Ed Ott; ACORN Head Organizer Jon Kest; representatives of the Chancellor’s Parents Advisory Committee; UNITE HERE; SEIU Local 32-BJ; Education Voters of New York; NAACP Metropolitan Council, El Centro de la Hospitalidad; Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Coalition for Asian American Children; Advocates for Children; the Center for Arts Education; Coalition for Educational Excellence for English Language Learners; Make the Road by Walking New York; New Settlement Parent Action Committee; Crotona Committee to Stop the Violence; Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition; South Brooklyn Youth Consortium Inc.; Coalition for Asian American Children and Families; Highbridge Community Life Center; National Center for Schools and Communities.

Elected officials on-hand Sunday to support the Coalition included State Senator Tom Duane; Assembly members Adam Clayton Powell IV, Rory Lancman, and Linda Rosenthal; and City Council Members Joseph Addabbo Jr., Charles Barron, Gale Brewer, Bill de Blasio, Alan Gerson, Eric Gioia, Sara Gonzalez, Vincent Ignizio, Letitia James, Melinda Katz, Oliver Koppell, Jessica Lappin, John Liu, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Darlene Mealy, James Oddo, James Vacca and David Yassky.


Chris Policano

Director of Communications

United Federation of Teachers



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