March 4th New York Call for Action
Attacks on education are taking place across the country. To respond to these attacks, students, teachers, workers and community members at the October 24th California Statewide Mobilizing Conference have called for a National Day of Action to Defend Education on March 4, 2010. We students, teachers and workers of New York, fully support this call and wish to join in the struggle. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent to bail out financial institutions, wage wars and build prisons and jails, yet we are told that there is no money to fund education. In New York, the attacks on education include budget cuts, tuition hikes, layoffs, expanding class sizes, the privatization of public schools through charter schools, attacks on unions, and cuts to student services.
SUNY and CUNY are in crisis. More than $400 million has been cut from SUNY and more than $160 million from CUNY in the past two years and further cuts are coming down as Paterson unveiled his budget proposal on January 19th. Despite the fact that the state is cutting funding, tuition is going up. Annual tuition at SUNY went up by $620 in 2009, to $4970, which followed a $950 increase in 2003, for a total increase of 46% in just six years. At CUNY, annual tuition went up by $600 in 2009, to $4600 which followed an $800 increase in 2003, for a total increase of 44%, and CUNY’s Board of Trustees has proposed additional tuition hikes for fall 2010 and spring 2011. Enrollment is surging at both schools, which, coupled with the budget cuts, is making it impossible for students to register for the courses they need to complete their degrees, while students services, such as childcare at Hunter College, are being threatened.
The K-12 public school system is also under attack. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced the closing of nineteen schools, given public schools’ space to charter schools operating in the same buildings, and attacked teachers’ salaries and tenure, while the board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority recently threatened to cancel student Metrocards. This attack on K-12 education is racist since most schools to close are in communities of color. Furthermore, the charter school invasion is a strategy of privatization not a strategy to better public education. According to a recent NYC Department of Education accountability report, although charter school students scored higher on standardized tests, traditional public schools actually did a better job at raising test scores. The truth is that charter schools raise their scores by picking the best public school students and rejecting English language learners and special needs students.
While higher education is becoming increasingly unaffordable and unemployment is higher than at any time since the Great Depression, the military is targeting students, especially immigrant, African-American and working class youth. Twenty-one percent of students interviewed report being recruited by the military during class time in 2007, a violation of Department of Education guidelines, while the Government Accountability Office documented over 6,000 allegations of misconduct and abuse by military recruiters in 2005.
Now is the time to stand up to defend the rights of students to a quality public education, to defend the jobs, pay and benefits of teachers and other workers, and to demand that education be prioritized over war. Education should be guaranteed from early childhood to college, and students should not have to mortgage their futures to afford it.
For all these reasons, we say:
- It’s not our crisis, we won’t pay!
- No school closures!
- No budget cuts, no tuition hikes, no layoffs, no union-busting!
- Cancel all student debt!
- Eliminate systems of racism in the public school system!
- Equal pay for equal work and job security for all faculty and teachers!
- No privatization of public schools!
- Free public education for all from kindergarten to college!
- Free health care for all students!
Across the country, students, teachers and workers are organizing to make March 4 a national day of coordinated actions. In New York City, a rally has been called for Governor Paterson’s office (633 Third Avenue) at 4pm, with other actions occurring earlier in the day around the city. Other actions are also being planned in locations throughout New York state.
It’s time to take a stand to defend public education and to fight back against the budget cuts, layoffs and other attacks against poor and working people!
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=244000051960&ref=nf
Google group: http://groups.google.com/group/march-4-education-ny
National website: www.defendeducation.org