The Central Islip School District recently decided to suspend students who participated in a peaceful protest against proposed budget cuts, a ruling that has drawn sharp condemnation from the New York American Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU).

Hundreds of students from Ralph G. Reed Middle School walked out of their classes April 1 to protest in front of the district’s administration offices. Central Islip officials issues layoff notices to 154 teachers last month and warned budget cuts could mean the elimination of all sports, after-school clubs, and kindergarten. The district is losing a total of $5.7 million in state aid.

NYCLU sent a letter to Central Islip stating the students were simply exercising their constitutional rights and “should be praised for their idealism,” and further stresses the suspensions send the message that free speech isn’t important.

Superintendent Craig Carr told Newsday he hasn’t received the letter and declined further comment.

New York unions are planning what they hope will be a massive rally May 12 against potential budget cuts, Wall Street, and Mayor Bloomberg. The protest is being billed as “The Day We Made Wall Street Stand Still,” and includes participants such as the United Federation of Teachers and 1199/SEIU.

"The big banks wrecked our economy and are back to making billions in profits and lavish bonuses, while the rest of us are still cleaning up the mess," said Mary Brosnahan of the Coalition for the Homeless.

She says the mayor should "ask Wall Street bankers to contribute their fair share to fixing New York City, rather than enacting devastating cuts."

Stu Loeser, a Bloomberg spokesman, countered with a familiar refrain when he griped that the protesters were nowhere to be found when Washington and Albany slashed billions in funding for New York City—an attack that is blatantly untrue.

Either Loesner and Company weren’t paying attention, the media failed to obsessively cover those protests as they did, say, the comparably smaller Tea Party movement, or Loesner knows there were protests, but scapegoating liberals is easier than taking the blame for cuts.

UFT chief Michael Mulgrew begs to differ: "We were up in Albany trying to get the millionaire’s tax put back. It was a shame that City Hall would not join us." 

He says the unions are saying, "Look, why are we being made to pay for what the financial institutions did?"

In California, a few hundred protesters rallied to counter a No-Tax focused Republican Party event in order to promote a fair budget. The crowd included students, children, seniors, people with disabilities, and public safety representatives.

The event was organized by California Partnership, a statewide coalition of community-based organizations that work together to protest and preserve health and human service programs and fight poverty.

The main purpose of the rally was to urge Republican Legislators to pass a "budget that includes sources of revenue" because "California can’t live with an ‘all-cuts’ budget," said Nancy Berlin, Director of California Partnership.

 "We represent working families, seniors, students, and the working people of California" and by extending the existing taxes, "we keep our people at work, students in school, and seniors at home," she said.

Chris Agrella, a Montclair resident, said that "the purpose of [the] rally is to show them [Republican Legislators] that we don’t want any tax raises, we just want to maintain the status quo of the taxes now" and to push California to generate "revenue from other sources, especially corporate loopholes."

 Agrella is an in-home caretaker for his wife and is paid monthly by the In-Home Special Services program, which would likely be hurt by deep cuts without the tax extensions.

 "California should find other ways to raise revenue besides attacking the needy," stated Agrella. 


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