Thursday, June 9, 2011

School Communities Across the City to Participate in Fight Back Friday


Date:  Friday, June 10, 2011     
Sam Coleman, Teacher, PS 24, NYCORE/GEM:  646-354-9362
Lisa Donlan, Parent, President CEC1:  917-848-5873

School Communities Across the City to Participate in Fight Back Friday

The City Council must hold Bloomberg and the DOE Accountable: 
No school-based budget cuts and no educator lay-offs!
Cut middle and upper management, outside contracts, technology, legal and public relations budgets,  the charter school budget, which is set to increase by $139 next year, and a portion of the monies spent on standardized high-stakes testing instead.

On Friday, June 10th, school communities across the city will take differentiated actions to protest Mayor Bloomberg’s destructive education policies, including the elimination of 6,000 teaching positions, 4,700 through lay-offs.  Individual schools will hold rallies, sign postcards directed at City Council representatives, disseminate flyers to spread awareness about where Mr. Bloomberg’s spending priorities lie, and they will wear black to, “take our schools back” as well as stickers proclaiming the Real Reforms our Mayor should be fighting for.

According to Yelena Siwinski PS 193, “will be protesting the destructive practices of the New York City Department of Education including the proposed layoffs of thousands of teachers (in addition to failure to replace teachers lost through attrition), the inadequate funding for intervention services for students, after school programs, and arts programs and the narrowing of the curriculum through increased emphasis on testing.  We will be handing out literature and having informational picketing on Friday, June 10th and June 17th.  Our action on June 17th will also include forming a human chain around our school building.”

Educators at the Pan American International High School have been taking their anger at Mayor Bloomberg's impending layoffs out into their Elmhurst neighborhood, asking parents and other community members to sign postcards against Bloomberg's budget.  "Response from parents has been amazing," said Math teacher Peter Lamphere, "They really understand the impact that reduced services and higher class sizes will have on their students, especially for the English Language Learners we serve.  Despite Bloomberg's comments to the contrary, these parents very much understand what it takes to provide a good education for their children, and that means they know we need the resources that the Mayor would like to cut."

Representatives from at least ten of the participating schools will visit Christine Quinn’s office located at 30th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues at 5:00 PM on Friday.  Parents and educators will deliver some of the more than 5,000 postcards collected at city-wide Fight Back Fridays over the last three weeks and will hold a press conference demanding the City Council reject any budget that includes  further cuts to school-based budgets and teacher lay-offs.

“We are participating in Fight Back Friday because the Mayor's proposed budget cuts will directly hit the most vulnerable New Yorkers while millionaires continue to profit,” said Ariela Rothstein, Teacher at East Brooklyn Community High School.  “Some of our school's greatest teachers could lose their jobs to the severe detriment of my students. My job is on the line just as I am seriously considering a long career in teaching.  The political maneuvering around lay-offs is damaging to our children and could mean that I and more than 4,000 educators cannot stay in the profession.  Given the steady increases in class sizes over the last nine years and the high teacher attrition rates, lay-offs should be off the table if we really want to put children first.”

Joanna Rich from PS 503 continued, "Our school community is participating in Fight Back Friday because the budget cuts would derail so many of our efforts to provide the children in this neighborhood with a rigorous and thorough elementary education. Under the proposed budget, PS 503 would lose over ten percent of its teaching staff, all of whom have been teaching for at least three years. These layoffs are unnecessary, and threaten to diminish the intervention and enrichment opportunities we currently provide our students."

$350 Million dollars is needed to prevent educator lay-offs and prevent disastrous consequences for our children including increased class sizes and loss of programming.  Mayor Bloomberg’s budget allocates $700 million for charter schools, $542 million in new technology, and hundreds of millions on testing. Parents, educators, children, and community members stand united in demanding our City Council reject the Mayor’s budget and call on Mr. Bloomberg to stop wasting our money and start to prioritize public education and local community public schools.  Added Steve Quester, “The mayor continues to prioritize tax breaks for Wall Street while class sizes balloon all over the city. At our school, we have a full-inclusion program in which 25% of the students are dyslexic, while 2/3 of our Reading Department is on the mayor's layoff list. How does Bloomberg dare call himself 'The Education Mayor'?”

Fight Back Friday began just over a year ago as a campaign effort to bring to life school-community-based education, organization and mobilization.  According to Michael Solo, a teacher at John Dewey High School, “Fight Back Fridays allow teachers, parents and students  to have a voice in the pushback against the ongoing attack against public education. The John Dewey High School community is greatly concerned with the continued attacks against our schools, our students, our colleagues in the teaching profession, and our unions. John Dewey’s basic premise, that a quality education is necessary to perpetuate our democracy, is under attack. Mayor Bloomberg’s threat of budget cuts and teacher layoffs is unnecessary and unfair. They say budget cuts, we say fight back !”

Sam Coleman, whose school held the first ever Fight Back Friday and launched the city-wide campaign concluded, “Fight Back Friday is about people power.  The time has come for us to collectively say, "Enough!"  Our children deserve the same quality education that Bloomberg chose for his daughters.  We must come together and demand equitable and just learning conditions for all children.  This begins with prioritizing the school budget to reflect an emphasis on teaching and learning rather than a budget that favors millionaires and billionaires and overemphasizes testing and technology.”

Additional Contacts:
Steve Quester, Teacher, PS 372:  347-683-6188
Ariela Rothstein, Teacher, East Brooklyn Community High School, 781-412-4084
Yelena Siwinski, Teacher, PS 193, 917-628-3588
Liza Campbell, Teacher, Academy for Environmental Leadership, 518-852-2337
Joanna Rich, Teacher, PS 503, 973-632-2476   
Michael Solo, Teacher, John Dewey High School, 917 750-7510 
Peter Lamphere, Teacher, Pan American International High School, 917-969-5658

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Next Fight Back Friday is June 10th

FBF gives every school community a chance to stand up and say NO to the cuts and lay-offs at whatever level the community can be organized.
  • Everyone wears black (Wear black, take our schools back!).  It can be as simple as just that.
  • We have stickers people can print out with messages about the cuts and the kinds of changes we would all like to see in education that folks can wear and give out. 
  • We have fliers that you can adjust to fit your school, which you can use on the day of.
  • Many schools have a picket outside of school either before or after the school day. We have fliers you can use to publicize the picket during the week leading up to the 20th.
  • The fliers will be in at least English and Spanish, and if we can, Chinese.
  • We have post cards that we are asking people to get signed that will then be delivered en-masse to city council members. You can print those out, or come get them at a couple of different locations.
  • We ask everyone to take pictures to send in that then go on our fight back friday blog and face book page.
We will be putting out a press release and press statement and pushing the press to cover as many school events as we can. And the more schools participating the more coverage we will get.
Please, even if it sounds hard or overwhelming, consider pushing your school community to join in. Email Julie Cavanaugh ( with any questions. We will send you the tool kit with all the fliers and stickers and such. We are happy to help you think through all the steps.
This is a way for your whole community to work together, parents, students and staff, to build solidarity within and across schools. These actions are great for training ourselves to do the organizing that we need if we are to turn the tide of the destruction of public education. In order to fight for the transformations we all want to see in our education system, we need to do the grassroots educating, organizing and mobilizing that it takes to move whole communities.