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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

UPDATED: Rally at City Hall and close encounters of the heated kind with Mayor Mike

We had a great rally this morning at City Hall to protest the budget cuts to schools. About fifty parents turned up, some with their children, with signs pasted to their jackets saying, “Do not balance the budget on our backs.”

Joining us were Council Members Robert Jackson and Margaret Chin of Manhattan, Mark Weprin of Queens, Jumaane Williams and Matthieu Eugene of Brooklyn, and Diana Reyna of Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Leroy Barr, staff director of the UFT and Donovan Richards, CM Sanders chief of staff.

At the end of the rally we had an unexpected encounter with Bloomberg himself. Pictures from the rally and our encounter with Mayor Mike are now up on the CSM Facebook page .

At the press conference, I showed charts revealing the sharp increases in class size that have already occurred, as well as a chart with the worsening distribution of income in NYC and NY state.

Eliminating 6,000 teaching positions would be an absolute disaster for our children, and would lead to even further increases in class size, probably the sharpest in over 30 years. I concluded that though the mayor may want to roll over the city’s $3 billion surplus, we as parents will not roll over when it comes to our children.

All of the elected officials were eloquent in their defense of our children’s right to a quality education, and pledged that they would fight hard to make sure that there would be no further increases in class size or any cuts to the classroom in the city’s education budget. I handed CM Jackson our petition with over 1,000 signatures and asked him to give it to Speaker Quinn, who will have to protect our children in the budget negotiations.

He emphasized that there was no need for any cuts with the city’s $3 billion surplus; Mark Weprin pointed out that there were plenty other areas that were expendable in the DOE spending policies, including wasteful testing, technology enhancements, consultants and private contracts. CM Chin said as a former teacher and married to a teacher, she knew full well how important class size is and that we cannot afford to let class sizes grow any more. Both Jumaane Williams and Matthieu Eugent pointed out that focusing on improving education is the best investment the city can make.

Sue Dietrich, Staten Island parent and head of the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council, representing all the PTAs in the city, said her son’s class was already at 34 students; and that it can’t possibly go any higher. She pointed out that the city’s arts programs, like the great chorus at PS 22 that sang at the Oscars, could be lost if there were any more budget cuts to schools.

Noah Gotbaum, President of CEC D3, said the Governor and the Mayor should be ashamed of themselves for favoring millionaires over our kids, and that though Cuomo talked about “shared sacrifice” it was hard to see what if anything the wealthy had sacrificed in this budget.

Lisa Donlan, parent leader and member of the Grassroots Education Movement led us in a chant, “Whose schools? Our schools! Whose taxes? Our taxes? Whose priorities? Our priorities!” Sarah Porter, parent activist from PS132K in Williamsburg, wrapped up by pointing out the mayor’s math was defective and that he needed remedial lessons, since there was no need to cut 6,000 teachers with such a large surplus.

After the rally was over, some of us remained talking on the plaza in front of City Hall, including Sarah, Tina Schiller of PS 234, and Benita Rivera of the Mother’s Agenda, when I noticed the Mayor walking down the steps.

I waved to him and shouted, “Please, Mr. Mayor, do not balance the budget on our children’s backs” and that “Millionaires should pay more, including you!”

To my surprise, he briskly walked over to us. He asked if we were teachers, and we said, no, parents. I showed him the class size charts, and asked him if he would want to have his child in such large classes; how could he consider letting them increase even more?

He countered by saying that city had been subjected to big cuts from the feds and the state and we should criticize them, not him. I followed up by pointing out that the city’s had a $3 billion surplus, but he claimed that there was no surplus; when we disputed that, he added that he needed to save the surplus for the year after.

I told him that I knew he wanted to roll over the surplus, but our kids cannot have their education further damaged. We said he should use the surplus now to fill holes in this year’s budget, and if he needed more money, he should raise city taxes on the wealthy. He said, go tell Albany; and that he’s been up there arguing with them.

We pointed out that he didn’t go to Albany to support the surtax on the wealthy but that he had instead opposed this. Several times he said, “Listen to me! I won’t talk unless you listen to me!” After about five minutes, he got tired of the discussion, and walked off.

Luckily, Benita Rivera was snapping photos with her cell phone; these are on the CSM Facebook page along with earlier ones from the rally, taken by Michelle Faljean of the SI Federation of PTAs:

Thanks Benita, Michelle, and everyone who came today!

After our exchange with the mayor, Erin Einhorn, City Hall Daily News reporter ran over, along with Samantha Gross of the AP, to ask us about it. She has already posted an account of our debate on the DN blog, entitled Mayor Bloomberg Listens! (But Does He Hear?)

UPDATED: The mayor's press spokesman has responded and so have I. several times on the DN blog. Go check it out!

Go check it out and leave a comment! And please leave a comment below.

10 comments:

Sweet Girl Tracie said...

Interesting and surprising that he did come out and speak with you. My guess is because he is doing damage control with his 38% approval rating since he is putting out promo ads to make himself look better.

It was all a PR move to make his image look good. Oh look at me, I went outside and I spoke with the parents who are rallying for city schools. Was he really listening to what you were all saying? Lets wait and see.

Marc La Vorgna said...

Ms. Haimson --

You seem to be very confused about some basic facts.

Yes, the Mayor is rolling the surplus dollars into next year, because NEXT YEAR is the year with the budget problems and layoffs.

We are currently in Fiscal Year 2011 -- it ends in June. We have NO layoffs in Fiscal Year 2011 and we saved up $3 billion this year.

See the Independent Budget office report here:

http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/finalmarch2011.pdf

IBO notes, we have those dollars in the "current fiscal year" -- 2011.

Next year is Fiscal Year 2012, where we have deficits. We are pouring ALL of that $3 billion from Fiscal Year 2011 into Fiscal Year 2012 to reduce the need for cuts, but unfortunately it is not enough to cover the budget gap created by a historic reduction in State Aid, thus we have layoffs, for next year -- Fiscal Year 2012.

You can see it clearly on page 1 of the IBO report.

It shows Fiscal Year 2012, the year with layoffs and the $3 billion rolled into it, with no surplus. In fact, it shows the City still has a deficit that year, meaning we have to make more cuts to achieve balance.

You should be pleased the Mayor prudently built up the surplus dollars to roll into Fiscal Year 2012, because if we didn't have it, the layoff numbers would be far, far worse.

There are plenty of policy issues where disagreements are reasonable. This is not one of them. Your facts are demonstrably wrong and you are misleading people. The three independent fiscal monitors in the city that are charged with reviewing the City's budget (IBO, City Comptroller and State Financial Control Board) all agree with the Mayor. This issue is not a matter of opinion, it’s a fact.

Marc La Vorgna said...

Ms. Haimson --

You seem to lack an understanding of some basic facts.

Yes, the Mayor is rolling the surplus dollars into next year, because NEXT YEAR is the year with the budget problems and layoffs.

We are currently in Fiscal Year 2011 -- it ends in June. We have NO layoffs in Fiscal Year 2011 and we saved up $3 billion this year.

See the Independent Budget Office report, which you referred to on the Daily Politics Blog.

http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/finalmarch2011.pdf

The IBO notes, we have those dollars in the "current fiscal year" -- 2011.

Next year is Fiscal Year 2012, where we have deficits. We are pouring ALL of that $3 billion from Fiscal Year 2011 into Fiscal Year 2012 to reduce the need for cuts, but unfortunately it is not enough to cover the budget gap created by a historic reduction in State Aid, thus we have layoffs -- for next year.

You can see it clearly on page 1 of the report. It shows Fiscal Year 2012, the year with layoffs and the $3 billion rolled into it, with no surplus. In fact, it shows the City has a deficit that year, meaning we have to make more cuts to achieve balance.

You should be pleased the Mayor prudently built up the surplus dollars to roll into Fiscal Year 2012, because if we didn't have it, the layoff numbers would be far, far worse.

There are plenty of policy issues where disagreements are reasonable. This is not one of them. Your facts are demonstrably wrong and you are misleading people. The three independent fiscal monitors in the city that are charged with reviewing the City's budget (IBO, City Comptroller John Liu, and the State Financial Control Board) all agree with the Mayor. This issue is not a matter of opinion, it’s a fact.

Leonie Haimson said...

Yes, I understand. there is a $3 billion surplus this year; exactly as I said. The mayor wants to use it to fill the budget gap next year. So let him raise taxes on the wealthy and/ or cut some of the wasteful spending elsewhere in the budget, instead of slashing 6,000 teaching positions and letting class sizes increase to disastrous levels.

This is bad politics, immoral and possibly illegal. Show some leadership for a change! Listen to what we are saying and stop lecturing us with a superior tone.

More than 5% of all prospective Kindergarten students are on waiting lists for their zoned school next year, and the DOE wants to cut the new seats by 50% and instead spend half a billion dollars on technology? What are you smoking at City Hall and/or Tweed, because its wrecking your judgment!

And I don't want to hear that to try to save his popularity from going even further into the toilet, the mayor will spend even more of his millions on PR consultants or silly ads.

Talk to real parents; figure out our concerns, don't treat us as the enemy or as simpletons to be talked down to.

You know, besides everything else, we would come talk to you for free.

Leonie Haimson said...

Hold that thought. perhaps we should charge outrageous sums like Howard Wolfson to come speak to you and give you advice. Then would you respect us more?

Anonymous said...

Good for trying to pin down the mayor, Leonie! I was at the rally today with my 5 year old daughter which was great but I was very disappointed more people didn't turn out. Please everybody help get the word out so that people, esp. PARENTS, can show up to these events in numbers that adequately represent the widespread anger and commitment to saving our schools.

Leonie Haimson said...

Thanks for coming! I actually thought the turnout was pretty good, esp. as I just announced this on Sunday and there was some confusion as to whether the event was still on, considering the hearings had been postponed.

jim callaghan said...

Leroy hard actually spoke...did anyone ask this mulgrew mouthpiece how he ratted out the rubber room teachers to Joel Klein...

Barr is useless and a fraud...bought and paid for by bloomberg.. teachers in the rubber rooms despise him...a first class faker...overpaid and underworked....Jim callaghan...

Anonymous said...

I haven't a clue as to whether Ms. Haimson is 100 percent correct in her assessment of the budget situation, but Mr. La Vorgna's remarks are gratuitously snide. To the point of being unprofessional. But I suppose he comes by it honestly, given who he works for.

Anonymous said...

Just found your site. Leonie is right to suggest the money be spent this year, as needed.Why do we have tofollow Bloomberg's vision that puts technology before teachers who can convey information and skills? He has no idea how he will need to lie in the future re the lack of progress the kids have made on the whole, if they rely on technology, and huge classes. No idea because he doesnt realize that so many of these kids are impoverished and not equipped with the skills they need to be critical thinkers. Technology is just a varnish atop a shaky foundation.He is on his cloud , along with other rich people who need to pay more taxes and have less loopholes, if he wants to see an improvement. The truth cant be washed away. This is a class war, and he disrespects the middle class, the working class and the poor, thinking that he and his ilk must have the answers. We know they dont know the answers , and also know that they r enriching themselves at our expense.