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Protest against state budget cuts aims for the heartstrings

Things got personal on the steps of Tweed Courthouse today as parents, advocates and elected officials protested budget cuts by sharing stories and photographs of specific children affected.

Summer Lord said her two children were “sandwiched in like a sardine, elbow-to-elbow with 34 other students” in over-capacity classrooms at P.S./I.S. 217 on Roosevelt Island. Millie Vargas’s daughter is passionate about the violin, and according to Vargas, a looming cut of approximately $150,000 to P.S. 73 threatens her daughter’s music class.

And Angela Courtney told me her daughter came home two days ago crying that an after school baking class she had joined at P.S. 35 had been abruptly cut.

These mothers were among the crowd of protesters waving black and white photographs of their children and neon posters markered with sayings like “What happens in Albany doesn’t stay in Albany” and “School cuts hurt.”

The New York City protest was one of eight similar protests taking place across the state today aimed at the $1.3 billion slashes from the state’s education funds.

In their speeches, advocates outlined the consequences of dwindling school funds. Leonie Haimson, of Class Size Matters, lamented about bulging class sizes; Carlos Ruis, the Parent Association president at the High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice, spoke about the possibility of losing the parent coordinator at his school; Santos Crespo, president of Local 372, addressed the looming school aide layoffs; others spoke about the affects on after school, teachers and arts programs.

“They’re not just numbers to us, these are our kids. How can you look at these faces and say cuts don’t hurt?” said Zakiyah Ansari, a parent organizer with the Coalition for Educational Justice.

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