By Rob Callaghan
On May 12, tens of thousands of teachers, students, unionized workers, community groups, and other concerned New Yorkers converged on Wall Street to protest teacher layoffs and Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed budget cuts.
“This city is upside down,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew to the huge crowd of UFT members, students and parents who gathered outside City Hall. “It’s not working for all of us and that’s why we are out here today. We want a city that works for everyone.”
The UFT protesters, who marched en masse to Wall Street after the City Hall rally, were united in their outrage at the Mayor’s insistence on teacher layoffs when the city has a $3.2 Billion budget surplus.
Down on Wall Street, the UFT marchers met up in the Water Street area with thousands of activists representing other sectors of the city economy, including transit workers, CUNY faculty and students, housing advocates, and AIDS and homeless advocates.
While the proposed teacher layoffs will not affect charter schools, charter teachers came out to show solidarity with their fellow union members. Teachers from Beginning with Children Charter School in Brooklyn came out to rally against the proposed layoffs.
As chapter leader Craig Garber observed: “There are incredible things happening all over the world right now. Regular people are taking to the streets and having their voices heard.
“We are teachers, we have busy lives, and work extra long hours so it is tough to always get involved,” said Garber, noting the importance of taking time out to fight the proposed layoffs. Joining fellow UFT members was important for him and his colleagues because “everyone is hurt when schools have their funding cut. Cuts in education, when looked at from the long view, may inhibit many students’ chances of attending college, participating in business, and can lead kids down a dark path.”
Arien O’Connell, a 6th grade special education teacher at Beginning with Children Charter School who also attended the rally, agreed: “I think that Mayor Bloomberg’s budget proposal is unfair. He is cutting the teaching force without budgetary necessity. This will especially hurt students in lower income neighborhoods and teachers who have recently come to the teaching profession. No good can come from this, and I’m proud of all of those who came out on May 12 to show the Mayor their disapproval.”