Wednesday, February 20, 2008


It is so easy to talk about the kids. Every politician everywhere is all about the kids. They all will tirelessly tell you how much they value education.

Somehow though budget cuts always seem to hit "education" hardest.

And the cuts made are always the most stupid (indicating that maybe the "cutters" need to go back to school).

Principals across New York City woke up last Thursday and discovered that because of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s new budget proposal, their budgets had been slashed overnight by sums ranging from $9,000 to $447,587.

They weren't happy and neither were their students and their student's parents.

Asked what he would cut, Barry M. Fein, the principal of the Seth Low Intermediate School in Brooklyn, told the NY Times, “My throat.”

In response to the cuts, hundreds rallied in front of Department of Education (DOE) headquarters in Manhattan last Thursday. They included parents, elected officials, and teachers.
Some of those gathered in front of DOE offices on Chambers Street said the mayor and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein need a refresher course on budget balancing.

They are right.

It seems no one wants to cut money that lines the pockets of those private companies that conduct all those standardized tests that Bushies and the like are so in love with.

"It's particularly painful to be told to cut the things that enhance our children's learning while the DOE spends more and more on trying to assess that learning," read a letter signed by over 100 parents of the Neighborhood School in the East Village.

“Might they also consider reducing what they pay in no-bid contracts for testing, ARIS, and any number of consultants living large on the backs of our students,” a Brooklyn principal wrote. “How much more do NYC public school students and their families have to give up?” ARIS is the acronym for an $80 million computer system that is used to compile and analyze student test scores and other data.

The kids know what the politicians can't seem to grasp.

"If we keep losing money, we won't have anything left," said Kambryn Rose, a fourth grader at P.S. 24 in Brooklyn.

Others said losing extra-curricular activities or classes scheduled outside regular school hours would be a serious loss.

"Some students need help catching up, and some need extra help just to pass," said Lisa Ko, an 11th grader at highly competitive Brooklyn Tech.

The kids aren't taking this lying down.

Students put together a group they named Students Against Budget Cuts organized and protest on the steps of Tweed Courthouse which sits directly behind city hall.

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.

As usual the people most close to the situation weren't consulted by city officials about how to distribute the cuts let alone about making them at all.

“The mayor and the chancellor love to call my members the C.E.O.’s of their schools,” Ernest A. Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, said on Thursday at City Hall, where he was joined by other elected and union officials reported the Times. “I think that what we could have used is some consultation with principals at schools, with the school community, to say what’s the best way to absorb these cuts.”

Someone needs to tell the budget cutters straight up exactly what Richard Kessler, Executive Director of The Center for Arts Education said. "Given the narrowing of curriculum that is already underway due to an increased focus on testing and test prep, this outcome is unacceptable."
That message needs to be delivered to all those "No Child Left Behind" addicts as well.

Of course, it isn't only New York where such draconian measures are being taken. Cuts to education budgets stretch across the country.

In California the governator proposed budget slashes $4.8 billion from public education. This is happening at the same time that efforts to close a loophole that enables Californians to buy yachts tax-free failed again to get the support of the governors party in the State Assembly.

“The governor’s proposed budget is a giant step backwards for our students,” said California Teachers Association President David A. Sanchez. “It’s disappointing and ironic that in the proclaimed ‘year of education’ the governor is talking about cutting billions from our public schools and decimating our minimum funding law. Our students didn’t create this budget crisis and their education shouldn’t be ransomed to solve it.”

In Georgia Gov. Perdue has recommended more than $140 million in "austerity cuts" for education in next year's budget, which begins in July. A key Senate committee yesterday morning cut $65 million for new school buses and technology from the mid-year budget, which covers spending through June 30.

Up in Alaska, a House budget subcommittee Monday sliced more than $1 million out of Gov. Sarah Palin's proposed budget for Head Start and other early education programs, a move that incensed many who say the state's kids desperately need such schooling. "They just took money away from opportunity and success for kids," said Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage. Investing in early learning is a better idea for Alaska's huge surplus of oil revenue than pouring dollars into new brick-and-mortar "pork" projects around the state, he said.

Gara said he and other lawmakers went to Palin recently and asked her to add money to her budget for Head Start and early learning.

Palin obliged last week by adding the money, and now the GOP dominated subcommittee has cut it out, he said.

Federal funding for Head Start has been flat and state funding also has remained static for several years as costs have risen, Gara said. Meantime, Head Start classrooms have closed in 19 communities around Alaska, he said.

And in Kentucky continued budget cuts for education are being described as devastating.

For example, the Kentucky budget cuts $92 million from targeted programs over the two years. There will be less money to buy new textbooks and to pay for tutoring, extra time for struggling students, alternative school, and helping teachers learn new methods.

Robert F. Sexton, Executive Director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence in Kentucky says:
"This situation on its own would be alarming. But the main reason the proposed budget would be such a disaster is the fact that it comes after 15 years of inadequate investments in education. We were digging a hole; now we’ve fallen in. Since about 1992 the legislature has barely kept up with inflation in school funding (except for employee benefits). Not counting health insurance and retirement cost increases, the total growth in education funding since 1992 has been just 2 percent."

Now, did anyone catch the name of that politician who care so very much about the kids?

The following is from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Students, Some as Young as 9, Protest School Budget Cuts
By Taylor Owen

Students, parents and teachers, many of them from Brooklyn, stood together last Thursday to protest planned cuts to the Department of Education budget. Students and parents started to show up immediately after schools were out, and by 4 p.m. the sidewalk in front of the Tweed Courthouse was full of protesters.

The protesting students and teachers were alarmed at what they believed they could lose in the event that the mayor goes through with the cuts. Charles Naut, a Brooklyn Tech senior, complained that his school would lose more than $400,000 over the course of the next two years. “Summer and night school programs will be cut, and the graduation rate will go down,” said Naut, “I know students who need night school to pass.”

The budget cuts are in response to the general downturn to the economy this year. Gov. Eliot Spitzer slashed the education budget for the city by roughly $100 million. As a result, Mayor Bloomberg has cut each school’s budget by 1.7 percent, or as Schools Chancellor Joel Klein put it, an average of $100,000 per school.

Protesters were from all parts of the city, and all had similar grievances. Leila Eliot of the Neighborhood School in the East Village came with her mother Anita. Mrs. Eliot said her PTA helped organize a letter-writing campaign against the cuts, and also raised awareness of the protest. Leila said that in her letter she wrote she was afraid that she would lose “gym and art class.”

Sunset Park After-School Program Brings Its Pre-Teens P.S. 24 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn made a special effort to protest the cuts. The PLUZ after-school program got almost 20 of its third, fourth and fifth-graders to attend the demonstration. Ginet Aguilar, a counselor in the program, said that the students and teachers came up with the idea of going to the protest, and made posters.

Some of the youngsters were quite outspoken. Joey Myles, a 9-year-old fourth grader, said it was his first protest. When asked what he would say to the mayor if given the chance, he said, “We want our money back! Why did you cut the budget?”

Third grader Jose Santiago of the same school said that his favorite part of the protest was the screaming, and that he feared he would lose gym class.

Mr. Kivanoski, a history teacher at Brooklyn Tech and a veteran protester, was impressed by the rally. “Its terrific, it’s high spirited, the people are interested in the cause and there are a lot of first timers. I’ve been going to demonstrations for years and this is pretty great. A lot of kids came on their own, and I think that’s exciting.”

When asked about the participation of the very young, he said, “It’s a good way of involving them, it’s encouraging civic activity.”

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