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This was the scene yesterday at the student-run "Broken Hearts" rally against the budget cuts.
We've heard that the kids there were pretty fired up -- hopefully they can sustain their energy in the coming weeks, as the Keep the Promises Coalition ramps up its work. And check out our blogger Seth Pearce, who made an appearance in a preview article in yesterday's Sun; he says LaGuardia's musical may be on the chopping block for next year.
According to the Daily News, the DOE is spending $32 million â€” more than three times what it spent last year â€” to grade standardized tests this year. New state and federal laws require teachers to do the grading, so instead of grading tests after school, teachers in middle and elementary schools are pulled from their classrooms for weeks to grade. This year, it sounds like many principals won't be able to afford substitutes for those teachers, so non-teachers may have to cover the classes, or students might be dispersed for a short time into other classrooms. Sounds disruptive, right? Good thing all that will happen AFTER the state math test.
Thank you guys for all of the positive feedback, it feels great to know that I have some support!
Wednesday night was the Bronx Science open house, and therefore a good chance to get a feel for what the subway ride was going to be like. From the time that we got into the subway to the time that we got out, it only took (give or take) 45 minutes, which was slightly less than we had heard but still quite a shock (my subway ride to school takes 10 minutes on a slow day!). Transportation is still a major question; the school offers a bus service that would take me door to door, but it's rather pricey and takes anywhere from an hour to two hours, from what I've heard. The alternative would be taking the subway, but I'm not sure if I'm comfortable riding the subway all the way to the Bronx by myself everyday.
Transportation aside, the open house itself very much resembled the tour that we took when we were first considering it; this time, however, the opening speech was much more congratulatory, and reminded us of how special we should feel that we had gotten in. I certainly did feel special, sitting in the huge auditorium that will someday be where I think some of my most complex and intellectual thoughts.
The tour took us into some of the classrooms, and introduced us to students in classes, clubs, and anyone else that happened to be in the building at the time. All of the courses sounded difficult and grueling, but I was instantly intrigued by a lot of the rooms that I walked into just based on the displayed work; one room was housing the robotics team, and they had their fully completed robot sitting out for people to look at.
Overall, I'm extremely excited to start going to Bronx. The possibilities are endless, as long as I keep my mind open and my schedule clear for study time!
One more dispatch from last night, where I was surprised to hear several speakers thinking about the possible long-term economic effects of the budget cuts.
Ziporah Steiner, principal of Maxwell High School, offered a real-world example of what the budget cuts could mean once she cuts all after school programming. "Our students have a choice: they can join the chess club, the drama club, the dance club, or they can join the Crips or the Bloods," she said, noting that once students have joined a gang, "We cannot reel them back."
In a statement read by a member of his staff, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz echoed Steiner's concerns, saying, "I strongly disagree that cutting school budgets is logical, productive, or even, in the long run, economically sound."
And Liz Phillips, principal of PS 321 in Park Slope, said, "If this is truly a recession, schools will need more money, not less," because children whose families are affected by the struggling economy will need additional services.
Preserving school budgets sounds great for the short term, but it sounds even better when you take a longer view. Let's hope lawmakers and the mayor can be made to agree.
Today at 4 p.m., Students Against the DOE Budget Cuts, a new student-organized group that looks like it's getting support from NYCORE and Time Out From Testing, will be holding a march on Tweed to oppose the budget cuts. Many folks last night said they would be supporting the student protest, and Liz Phillips, principal of Brooklyn's PS 321, has written to her families encouraging them to go.
As much as I'd like to, I can't go â€” can someone who is tell us in the comments what it's like?
While the response to the budget cuts started quietly and informally, it's now shaping up to be a loud, organized expression of years of frustration with the way the mayor and chancellor have managed the city's schools.
At the Borough Hall meeting last night, it was the repeated calls for transparency at the DOE and meaningful inclusion of parent opinion in decision-making that received the most applause.
City Council Member Bill DeBlasio recited a litany of circumstances when the public has found out that "policy decisions have been made that don't reflect the on-the-ground reality" and when DOE officials "didn't get approval from anybody" but went ahead with their plans nonetheless, including last year's school bus fiasco, the cell phone ban, increased testing, and the progress reports.
Describing Time Out From Testing's six-point plan for how the DOE can save money without hurting students, Martha Foote said the DOE should open its books to the public, creating greater transparency about who works at the DOE and how much they're paid.
The rest of the plan: eliminate the $80 million contract to create interim assessments; cut ARIS, the $80 million data tracking system the DOE bought from IBM; cut the $16.6 million contract to provide security for ARIS; stop hiring expensive consultants; and stop accepting no-bid contracts.
At a strategy meeting tonight at Brooklyn Borough Hall, City Council member Bill deBlasio emphasized that the recent budget cuts are "huge, reversible, and represent broken promises," staying on point with the message of the Keep the Promises Coalition, which held an inaugural press conference on Sunday.
DeBlasio noted that the cuts result in real losses, not just symbolic ones, for schools and students; but could be reversed, because the state and city budgets for next year have yet to be approved. "When local entities start to add up ... that has a huge impact," he said, suggesting several steps parents, principals, and community leaders can take to pressure lawmakers to undo the cuts in next yearâ€™s budget:
- Write to your elected officials and local newspaper, demanding that the state keep its promise to increase operating and building aid to the city and that the mayor restore the cityâ€™s school cuts.
- Attend the massive rally the Keep the Promises Coalition is planning for March outside City Hall.
- Get your PTA, Community Education Council, and Community Board to pass resolutions supporting the Keep the Promises agenda.
Tools for completing these goals were handed out at the meeting tonight; Iâ€™ll link to the sample PTA resolution, letter to the editor, and letter to elected officials as soon as they go online. Next, Iâ€™ll share other highlights from the meeting.
NYC's students are taking action.
In response to the city's and state's recent education budget cuts, a group called Students Against DOE Budget Cuts has organized a protest on the steps of Tweed Courthouse for tomorrow, Valentine's Day.
This is no surprise to me. These cuts have sent a shock down the spine of NYC's student body to larger extent than any education issue since the cell phone ban. Students feel betrayed. We feel as though the state and city are disrespecting us and demeaning our status as learners.
These budget cuts are more of a future-cut than anything else. They show a great lack of concern for the urgent welfare of our city's students and in doing so forgetting about the future of our city, our state and our society.
The education investment is one for the years to come. It won't always yield the quickest results but in the long term it is an investment for the future. Through these budget cuts, Spitzer and Bloomberg signaling to NYC students that no, we are not the future.
So now, you've got us energized, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Spitzer. Students are protesting. Facebook groups against the cuts are popping up every day. Petitions are being circulated. At LaGuardia, the Student Government has put together a budget cuts committee to coordinate protest efforts and to examine the school's budget and make recommendations about how to respond to the cuts.
Do not take our investment in our learning for apathy. When you wrong us we will fight back. Listen.
The head of the American Federation of Teachers, the national teachers' union, is stepping down this summer, and UFT President Randi Weingarten is the heir apparent to the job; elections will be held in July and she could be headed to Washington, D.C. shortly after that. The Times notes that Weingarten has secured higher teacher salaries and participated in education policy experiments, such as performance pay and charter schools, when many in her union and in teachers' unions nationally opposed them. Blogging teacher NYC Educator has an entirely different, much less congratulatory list of Weingarten's accomplishments.
Last month, the Sun took a look at the UFT leaders who might become president after Weingarten leaves.
When $100,000 is yanked out of your school's budget, every dime that your PTA has raised is more precious than ever. That dime is yours to spend, and no one can take it out of your bank account in the middle of the night. It represents the ability to control your school's destiny. So whatever fundraising efforts your PTA has planned for spring, remind your parents that the money they raise will be immune from city politics. This year, that will matter more than ever.