Whistles blared and educators chanted “shame” across from Sen. Martin Goldman’s Bay Ridge office last Friday as educators and activists united against the State Senate’s proposed budget.
The protestors are fighting against what they call a “bad budget,” which is set to be finalized at the end of the month. The areas of contention:
- It sells out public K-12 education in favor of charter schools and private schools;
- It leaves CUNY woefully underfunded while reducing estate taxes for the wealthiest New Yorkers;
- It includes a property tax freeze that would primarily benefit the rich; and
- It says NO to the NYS DREAM Act, ignoring that undocumented students were brought to New York as children.
“This outrageous budget is a complete attack on our children,” said Barbara Bowen, president of CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union CCNY professors and staff belong to.
Goldman was one of 29 senators who voted against the DREAM Act in Albany last Tuesday. “We’re here to let him know that his votes are against the will of the people,” said Howard Schoor, Brooklyn’s borough representative for the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). The DREAM Act, which would grant undocumented students access to state financial aid, died on the floor after requiring 32 votes to pass and only garnering 30 in support of it.
Educators have jumped into the contentious charter school debate. They called for resources to be returned to the public school system which teaches the majority of young New Yorkers, instead of rent-free space and increased tax payer dollars steered toward charter school funding. The PSC and UFT also opposed the tax breaks the budget will administer to high-earning donors to charter schools.
According to both unions, the decreased funding comes at the cost of students in grade school and at the senior college level. It translates into teacher lay-offs, canceled creative and language programs, as well as reduced class size.
“It’s not about us,” said Sokol Muja, ESL teacher at Seth Low IS 96. “It’s about the disadvantaged kids and families who can’t articulate their voice.”
Vanecia Wilson, a teacher at PS 332, said that a restructuring of the state education is in order and she has no intention of keeping silent. She has been a teacher at a school that was closed and said she rallies for her students past, present and future.
“Life begins to end when we become silent to things that matter,” said Wilson, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr.
Both unions said they were prepared for an ongoing fight. With the budget soon to be finalized, Bowen called for the community to apply continued pressure on local representatives in the coming days.
“[Goldman] should be shamed for attacking their dreams and the our dreams as the people who teach them,” said Bowen.
Goldman did not acknowledge the ongoing rally, but was seen stepping outside of his office to briefly converse with a nearby police officer.