Categorized | Bronx Beats, Education

Marchers Oppose Cuts to Education Spending

Hundreds of students and other protesters gathered this afternoon opposite the Midtown offices of Gov. David Paterson to protest against an array of state education policies which, according to activists, have cut spending on CUNY and SUNY by a greater proportion than any other state agency in New York. The rally concluded a daylong series of protests that included an event at Lehman College in the Bronx.

“Education is a right. Fight, fight, fight,” chanted the crowd as they listened to speeches from students and representatives from organizations fighting to defend the right to free education. Today’s protests also included walkouts at Hunter College, NYU, and the New School, while other rallies took place at City Hall, Queens College, CCNY, the CUNY graduate center, and Lehman College.

Protesters gather opposite Governor Paterson's offices in Manhattan. (Ian Thomson / The Bronx Ink)

Protesters rallied against budget cuts in education. (Ian Thomson / The Bronx Ink)

Activists’ Web sites said they are demonstrating against CUNY tuition hikes, the elimination of free student Metrocards, mayoral control of the board of education, and the privatization of public schools. A loose coalition of political groups sponsored the protests including the CUNY Professional Staff Congress Union and groups at NYU and the New School that were responsible for the occupation of school buildings last year.

A blog created to promote the protests listed the diverse interests of the participants apart from supporting public education: “Money for… Hospitals, Housing and Jobs, No Budget Cuts, No Layoffs, No CUNY Tuition, No More Money for War, No Money for the Military Occupation of Haiti, No More Money for Corporate America!”

Paterson’s education policies have been sharply criticized in recent months. At the beginning of this school year, CUNY tuition went up $295 per semester. In October of last year, the state legislature rejected Paterson’s proposal to cut $686 million in state school aid. At the end of 2009, the governor withheld $190 million in state payments from the public school system, about $84 million of which was due to New York City schools. Paterson has said these drastic measures were necessary to keep the state from insolvency.

Matt Anderson, a spokesman from the governor’s budget office, said that the proposed cuts were ” a difficult choice in terms of closing the budget deficit,” which he said was now approaching $9 billion. He said that reductions were being made across every area and not being targeted solely at education.

“What we’re proposing is to provide flexibility to SUNY and CUNY to provide more rational tuition increases based on inflation,” Anderson said. He said the proposed system would prevent students from facing tuition hikes during fiscal crises when the state needs to close the budget shortfall.

Additional reporting by Ian Thomson

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