Rally held against school budget cuts

March 19, 2008 4:29:42 PM PDT
Teachers and principals protested on the steps of City Hall Wednesday, angry about school budget cuts.But officials say the economic reality is that every agency has to deal with cuts right now.

Education reporter Art McFarland has the story.

An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 demonstrators turned out in the rain to speak their minds about $180 million in budget cuts this year and millions more to come next year. They hope to derail any further school cuts.

A coalition of teachers and principals are confident in their case against school budget cuts.

"I'm old enough to have been around when teachers bought their own paper, and I really don't want to go back," teacher Virginia Pruitt said. "It can get pretty tough when you start cutting school bugets."

At some schools, programs like a math intervention class at P.S. 321 are being scaled back. The mid-year cuts have meant individual school budget losses in the thousands.

"What it's meant this year is fewer supplies," P.S. 321 principal Liz Phillips said. "We didn't buy new furniture that we were going to buy, and it has meant that we've had to cancel some math intervention services."

Public opposition has been building for weeks. At a Brooklyn hearing in February, there was concern over how budget cuts would affect class sizes.

An expected delay in state aid to city schools is expected to slow down the creation of more classroom space. After their City Hall meeting, the mayor and the new governor were asked about school budget issues.

"I think the world that the teachers, the schools in New York City, knew, has changed," Governor David Paterson said.

"We are cutting against a budget," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "The total monies going to education will still go up. They might not go up as much as they would've gone up, but as the governor said, we live in a very different wold today than we did six months ago."

Teachers' union president Randi Weingarten said the cuts are a matter of choice.

"Are we going to make a choice that, as kids have to go through higher and higher standards, that we try to give them the quality teachers and lower class size and the other services they need?" she said. "Or are we going to say, 'Oh no, times are too tight?' Kids are going to lose."

And both Bloomberg and Paterson link the need for school budget cuts to the sagging economy. But there will be a lot more protests and many more questions regarding the cuts in the weeks and months to come.