More than 20,000 protesters descended upon Wall Street Thursday to demand an end to Mayor Bloomberg’s draconian education cuts and his soft touch approach to billion-dollar companies.
The May 12 event began as a series of splinter cell protests in the radius surrounding Wall Street that ultimately converged on the financial district.
Those in attendance included Reverend Al Sharpton, the United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, and various members of the City Council.
At the education protest, teachers came out in droves to protest Bloomberg’s recent decision to lay off thousands of teachers. Additionally, educators were demanding Bloomberg ask his rich friends on Wall Street to sacrifice along with everyone else.
David Pecoraro, a math teacher at Beach Channel High School and a parent to a high school freshman, attended the protest to represent the interests of his students and his son.
“All are going to be denied the right to a quality education because of these politically motivated, unnecessary cuts,” said Pecoraro, adding that it’s not just a matter of denying educations to youth, but the education cuts are dangerous in some cases, too. Some of his son’s classes use heavy machinery, and the cuts mean there’s less faculty to supervise the students. “[Bloomberg] is playing with the kids’ lives,” he said.
On top of the thousands of teachers Bloomberg plans to lay off, the mayor hasn’t replaced the 5,000 educators who were also fired in the last five years.
Pecoraro doesn’t see the layoffs as part of a fair compromise plan in which all citizens are asked to share sacrifice. “I haven’t seen any of [Bloomberg’s] billionaire friends lose anything,” he said. “There’s no millionaire’s tax on the city level. The Bush tax cuts got extended, so these guys are still partying hardy. The party’s got to end. I’m tired of people trying to take my kid’s education away.”
Protesters consistently referred to the city’s $3.2 billion budget surplus (pdf) as proof that the mayor hasn’t run out of money, but rather he’s simply making bad decisions by catering to the interests of the wealthy elites.
Michelle Hamilton, a teacher at The Albert Einstein School, said that Bloomberg isn’t asking the people responsible for tanking the economy to forfeit anything. “The sacrifices are being asked for from everyday people,” said Hamilton.
Meanwhile, teachers are desperately treading water in their overcrowded, underfunded schools. Hamilton puts her own money into buying books for her students, and in order to pay for trips and basic supplies.
The situation makes for a bleak future. “It’s not fair, but it’s also not wise. You can’t build a country when you’re not educating children properly."