Wednesday, June 24, 2009

IS 218 Protests Budget Cuts; UFT Doesn't

Newly elected IS 218K Chapter Leader Tom Crean sends this along. Too late for publication in the NY Teacher? Did the UFT consider Edwize or the UFT web site? Really fighting budget cuts, not their thing - the only way they know how to cut the cuts is by selling off future teacher pensions.

Letter to chancellor. Click to enlarge

Below is a brief report meant originally for the New York Teacher about a June 12 protest held outside my school, IS218 in
East New York against the savage cut in our budget. Ap
parently it was too late for publication.

I also attach several photos and a letter the school’s UFT chapter sent to Joel Klein. Now that the budget has been passed by the City Council and the huge cuts to the schools which were spread so unevenly have been left intact it is necessary to ask: why did the UFT leadership do so little to publicize the plight of schools like 218?

When the full scale of the cuts for the school year 2009-10 became clear a few weeks ago, the union should have been organizing protests outside every school in the city building up to an emergency rally outside City Hall. After initiating the 50,000 strong rally on March 5, they restricted themselves to writing letters to the newspapers and urging teachers to fax their public representatives.

The real position was revealed in a press statement by Randi Weingarten dated May 19:

“Although the school budgets issued by the school system today do not, by any means, amount to a full restoration of items and services on the chopping block, getting the cuts down to the 3-to-4 percent range in this tough economy is a huge improvement over the prospective budgets that amounted to a 7 percent cut for schools. We at the United Federation of Teachers and other advocates who worked tirelessly and fought so hard in Washington and Albany for funding to minimize the brunt of expected city cuts will continue to seek budget restorations from the City Council in the weeks ahead. But we are still pleased to see that the Mayor and the Department of Education have gone a long way to protect the classroom and maintain services for students in these difficult times.”

This is the logical conclusion of “shared sacrifice”; so much for opposing cuts to the most vulnerable!

Tom Crean, newly-elected chapter leader at IS 218

Teachers at IS 218, East New York Protest Cuts

On Friday June 12, between 7:45 and 8:30 am, over 50 teachers, parents and students rallied outside Sinnott Magnet School (IS 218) in East New York against the vicious $1.4 million cut in their school’s budget by the DoE. Despite the rainy weather it was a high energy protest. Teachers held signs that read “No More Budget Cuts” and chanted “They say cut back, we say fight back!” The protest was also attended by City Councilor Charles Barron.

Even taking into account declining enrollment at IS 218, $1.4 million represents a 10% cut to the school’s budget, far in excess of the 4.9% announced citywide. Twenty teachers, nearly a third of teaching staff are being excessed. The cut is so deep that it compromises the school’s instructional integrity with potentially grave consequences for student achievement. There is no money for after school programs, intervention for at-risk students or even basic school supplies. As the teachers said in a letter to Joel Klein, “This will literally rip the heart out of our school.”

It is a cruel irony that IS218 is being targeted for such a deep cut when it has shown enormous improvement on the state’s standardized tests Between 2006 and 2009, on the state ELA test, the proportion of IS 218 students who scored level 3 or 4 rose from 32.1% to 54.4% On the state math those scoring level 3 and 4 rose from 43.2% to 71.0% during the same three year period. During the 2006-7 school year the school received an A grade from the city which went down to a B last year. So if IS 218 is doing so well according to official criteria why is the DOE gutting it? Some teachers are concerned that this is possibly a step towards closing the school altogether.

It was pointed out by a speaker at the protest that some other schools faced massive cuts, such as the Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant which faces a 16% cut or over $3.1 million. These attacks on education, are nothing short of criminal. The speaker went on to ask, “There are billions for the banks, why can't they bail out the schools?”


Joan Heymont said...

I'm glad to see the report of the demonstration at IS 218. Yesterday about 30 staff members at Clara Barton HS in Crown Heights picketed against the cuts at our school. 9 excessed, but others who are leaving not being replaced. Most of our school aides are being cut back to 4 hours/day, and therefore will lost benefits, too. We are hoping to distribute a letter to parents that we've written and translated.
Are there other schools where people are trying to fight the cuts? It would be good to hear more reports.

Matt said...

Bail out schools... yeah! More money for Union Thugs! To hell with the children!