Monday, August 1, 2011

An Open Letter from

Kelley Wolcott
BCS Chapter Leader
8th Grade English Teacher

Why I Am Attending the People's General Assembly on August 2nd at the Charging Bull

I just wanted to let you know about an important event that will be happening this Tuesday, August 2nd at the Charging Bull statue in Bowling Green Park to object to the national debate on the debt ceiling. On Tuesday, August 2nd at 4:30 pm, we will be gathering the the Charging Bull statue to voice opposition to the continuing trend of budget cutting to the public sector. 

As I'm sure you already know, Congress and the White House have been in a heated battle as to whether or not to raise the debt ceiling. Republicans are using the threat of not raising it, which would result in the defaulting of the U.S. economy, to push for even more unnecessary budget cuts that would ultimately trickle down to us on the state and city level throughout the year. It's hard to imagine what that would look like considering that our schools have already taken massive financial hits on the local level. Many of us do not have a concrete idea of what these cuts will look like on the ground level in the fall, but I do know how my school will be impacted in a very real sense. The school that I teach in had $500,000 slashed from our school budget, which means that we have lost funding for the following:

   - Money for supplies like paper or toner
   - Sub funds, meaning more coverages 
   - Money for per diem Academic Intervention Support, to help at risk and academically struggling students
   - Money for our Expeditionary Learning PD contract.
   - Per session for anything other than the PSAL (sports) will provide
   - Funding to hire all necessary staff, we are currently understaffed for Special Ed, ESL, and administrative secretarial needs
   - Loss of Title I funding
   - Loss of Teacher's Choice money (used by teachers to cover out-of-pocket classroom expenses)

This so-called budget deal is a perfect example of a how political parties, unions, and elected representatives continue to give up concessions while claiming to "save" the few rights and benefits that we have left, and to protect what little we have. Meanwhile, those with lobbying power and money can continue to increase their record profits at the expense of the middle class. Giving up our rights and benefits one piece at a time, rather than fighting for what the public deserves in a healthy democracy and world power, is a downward spiral and a huge mistake. 

Even though the mayor, the city council, and the UFT want to applaud themselves for allegedly saving classroom teaching positions by averting layoffs, they have not in fact saved jobs in any real sense that helps understaffed schools. Since the city has been on hiring freeze for the past 3 years we have lost approximately 10,000 teaching positions system-wide through attrition. This loss of teachers has lead to a steady and consistent rise in class size in public schools. Additionally, their budget deal has left individual schools with devastating cuts that could result in the elimination of even more classroom positions through "excessing" in addition to the loss of classroom resources. 

Regardless of the city's claim that budget cuts are a necessary "sacrifice," what is becoming more and more clear is that they are crying wolf. When they claim to not have money for schools, they did have plenty of money for:

   - a $27 million no-bid contract to News Corporation subsidiary Wireless Generation, for educational and testing software
   - $54.9 million and $23.7 million to implement a new and severely flawed computer system called SESIS, which the Education Department outsourced to a Virginia-based corporation called MAXIMUS  
   - a $80 million deal with CTB-McGraw Hill to create interim tests
   - a $32.1 million contract for Pearson, an educational corporation with a spotty track record, to devise the math and English language arts exams     
   - a $2 million dollar contribution to the UFT for their charter school to be relocated

Our tax dollars should be used for our right to prosper socially in well financed, healthy communities with open libraries, fire houses, and schools. Our tax dollars should to be used to help people prosper physically through social security, health care, and housing. Our tax dollars should be used for our right to prosper educationally by guaranteeing that every school, teacher, and student is able to provide the highest quality education and are given the appropriate resources and support to do so. Our tax dollars should be used for the right for teachers to actually teach through the development and implementation of culturally relavant, engaging, and innovative curricula that meet the needs of students and communities, rather than high stakes standardized tests that reduces children, schools, and teachers into data rather than educators and learners. 

Our elected representatives NEED to STOP to giving our tax dollars to those who need it the least such as corporations, banks, and wealthy individuals; and to return it to taxpaying communities. And WE need to hold our representatives accountable. In order for that to happen, we are going to have to fight for what is rightfully ours. 

I hope that you will be able to join me on August 2nd to fight back and send a strong message. It will be the beginning of a year long campaign to demand that government start doing it's job and to return to spending our tax dollars in our communities by:

   - fighting for fair budgets that support schools and the public sector 
   - ending Bush Era tax cuts 
   - closing corporate loop holes  
   - restoring the Millionaire's tax in New York state 

For more information and to RSVP visit our Facebook Event Page at August 2nd General Assembly - Stop the Bull, Make Wall St. Pay! 

In the event you can't make it, the greatest way you can help is by spreading the word! Forward this endlessly via email, Facebook, Twitter, phone calls, or smoke signals. Thanks for taking the time to read this diatribe and I hope to see you all on Tuesday!
 
In solidarity,

Kelley Wolcott
BCS Chapter Leader
8th Grade English Teacher

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