When Jennifer Baumgartner picked up her daughter, IsabelleGolightly, from school at P.S. 24 last Friday afternoon, she didn’thead home immediately.
Instead, she took the eight-year-old’s hand, grabbed twocardboard signs, and joined fellow parents and students in asidewalk protest against state and city budget cuts which have hitschools like P.S. 24 particularly hard; it lost over $1 million inthe last year, eliminating after-school programs, art classes,teachers and supplies.Passing motorists honked their support as over 50 parents, teachersand students stood at the corner of Fourth Avenue and 38th Streetchanting and waving placards declaring Children Are Not TestScores. Neither Are Teachers, Honk For Public Schools! andTeacher Lay-Offs Punish Students! The event was part of thefourth Fight Back Friday protest held by parents and teachersthis year, and was sponsored by the NY Chapter of Radical Education(NYCORE) and Grassroots Education Movement (GEM).It is morally and ethically unjustifiable for the mayor andgovernor to take these resources away from our families whilegranting millionaires and billionaires tax breaks, said SamColeman, a third grade teacher at P.S. 24 for six years and aNYCORE/GEM organizer. Fight Back Fridays are a way for schoolcommunities to come together — parents, teacher and students — tosay enough is enough. We are united in this fight, and we are notgoing to sit by quietly anymore.Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators came to a tentativeagreement this week to restore $250 million of $1.5 billion inproposed cuts to schools. It is unknown how much of that money willgo to New York City schools. Despite that small relief, MayorMichael Bloomberg has maintained that he plans to lay off at least4,600 teachers this year.The potential of budget cuts affecting this school is enormous. Itis important to get our voice heard and show that we care, saidBaumgartner, whose daughter is in the third grade. We’re out heretoday and there are petitions being signed. If they are notlistening to us now, then we need to be louder.We’re desperate because they think they’re doing a good thing forthe kids, but they’re not, added Cesarina Cruz, who marched withher nine-year-old daughter Katty. Having overcrowded classrooms andoverwhelmed teachers, Cruz said, is not fair to the kids.According to Julia Masi, the United Federation of Teachers chapterleader at P.S. 24, the issue of budget cuts unites people acrosspolitical, union and cultural lines, particularly in SunsetPark.Our community values education. You can see how parents came out.Teachers here work really hard to do parent outreach, said Masiafter a student ran over to declare that he’d gotten a policeofficer to sign the petition against budget cuts. Especially inthis neighborhood, [which is] diverse and perfect for raising afamily, we felt it was important to have a rally and show that wevalue education in southern Brooklyn.