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Union fighting DOE layoffs

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 9/29/2011, 10:22 a.m.

Angry protests and outrage continue across the city as the Department of Education threatens to lay off nearly 800 school staff workers. Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens labor groups-most notably DC 37-and advocates have been standing their ground to prevent layoffs that could have a devastating effect on public schools.

The DOE announced in August-just weeks before school started-that it would lay off 777 people by October. This is reportedly the largest single layoff since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office, but over 2,200 jobs have been lost in the DOE since 2008, according to Local 372.

"In my son's school, PS/IS 187 [in Washington Heights], continued budget cuts have translated into the loss of a middle school principal, an art teacher for the elementary school, a science teacher for grades K to 2 and after-school enrichment classes for all children. I cannot fathom how, with these cuts, the state and city expect a solid school like PS/IS 187 to improve-or even maintain academic achievement," said Tory Frye.

One of the most recent protests took place on Tuesday in the Bronx at PS 66, led by Local 372 of the New York City Board of Education Employees union. The group was supported by several other groups, including 32BJ, Class Size Matters and the New York Charter Parents Association.

"As our members are returning to their jobs, bureaucrats at the Department of Education are preparing pink slips and layoff notices for nearly 800 school aides, parent and community coordinators, health aides and family workers," the union said.

The union added that the layoff of school aids would have an effect on classroom environments, connecting bullying and school violence. They say the DOE is taking out some of the most critical people in the classroom who help kids stay focused and safe.

"All will be at work in September, and if the Department of Education has its way, all will be gone by October," they said. "Most of those job losses would be felt in East New York, Brownsville, Williamsburg, Washington Heights and the South Bronx-communities that are already in need for enhanced social services and suffering with higher unemployment rates."

The organization Alliance for Quality Education has also joined the chorus with labor unions on the issue, calling out to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the issue. The group presented personal stories, called "School Cuts Hurt," detailing the impact of the $1.3 billion in cuts to public education.

"Just weeks into the school year, the stories of pain due to massive state education budget cuts are being echoed across the entire state of New York," said Nikki Jones, communications director for the Alliance for Quality Education. "Effective programs have been scaled back or eliminated. In addition, more than 10,000 teaching and other critical staff positions have been cut.

"For many students, particularly in high-need schools, the cuts will serve as a huge stumbling block to their educational success. Parents and students are calling out to the governor and their legislators for help."

Across the state, there will be a total of eight "School Cuts Hurt" events, varying from rallies to press conferences. Other events will be held in Patchogue, Long Island, Rochester, Poughkeepsie, Albany, Buffalo, Massena and Syracuse.