Budget cuts hit New York City schools hard in 2011. Leon M. Goldstein High School (LMG), where I am a student, was no exception. As at high schools nationwide, students and teachers at LMG are feeling the effects of budget cuts and we have had enough. Teachers are stretched thin because of overcrowded classes and stressed because their jobs are at risk. Students are also getting increasingly frustrated. Our futures ultimately depend on which courses we pursue (colleges are impressed when students have taken a wide range of classes), but as course offerings are cut at LMG, options are slim.
These students should protest, right? Actually, we did. On November 30, over 100 teachers, students, parents, and community members from LMG and other South Brooklyn schools marched through Brooklyn, demanding an end to the cuts. We were joined by city transit workers who have been feeling the budget cut squeeze themselves.
This march followed an October 24 demonstration at which dozens of students rose before the sun to meet with teachers, parents, and other school professionals. These protestors set up a picket line at the school’s entrance and tried to engage people as they came in.
More than 100 people protested that morning, including LMG senior Genesis Leon. “I wanted to help raise awareness of how budget cuts impact a smaller school," said Leon, president of the school’s senior council. "We will not sit back and let budget cuts affect us without attempting to change it first."
Student Beatrice Slavutskiy expressed her concern that budget cuts will affect her college admissions prospects. She explained, "I wanted to take both a science and math [class], mainly due to the fact I plan to major in science…I could not take either." Speaking of how cuts have affected LMG’s extracurricular activities, Slavutskiy said, “It has gone from bad to worse."
Michael Schirtzer, a history teacher at LMG for the past five years, described the impact budget cuts are having on his own job. Said Schirtzer, “My classes are packed, 34 [students] in each class. I have less time in class for the individual attention that my students deserve." One of his concerns coincides closely with those of the students. He wants young people to have had a "diverse background" of coursework when they leave high school, but budget cuts are making this impossible.
Both students and teachers hope that their efforts will be noticed. So far, it appears they’ve been successful. Local television news and South Brooklyn publications covered the November 30 march, while City Comptroller John Liu joined the October 24 protest.
As students head into the new year, they plan to keep fighting for their education. As Danielle Sorrentino, who helped organize the November 30 protest, said, "We can’t just sit back and watch as our school is stripped of all its funding, or just wait for the budget to be restored. We need to take a stand now. By getting the media involved as well as other schools, we will hopefully be heard.”
Schirtzer agreed, stating, “My students need to see participation in government is not just complaining about problems, but doing something about it.” For more information about the ongoing campaign against school budget cuts, go to http://www.facebook.com/Budgetcutshurtourschools.