Group Gives Budget Cuts a Failing Grade
by Holly Tsang
Mar 31, 2009 | 863 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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When the economy starts to go south, sometimes the government has to cut back on social spending, but education is never a bad investment.

That is precisely the message trumpeted by DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) as members of the group gathered outside of the Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue subway station on March 27 to speak against Governor David Paterson's proposed $2.5 billion cuts to New York State education funding.

"Corporations like AIG and on Wall Street get bailouts, and students get budget cuts," said Shoshi Doza, a youth organizer for DRUM, a Jackson Heights-based organization that provides services to South Asian immigrants.

About a dozen DRUM teens approached commuters to spread awareness about the impact the budget cuts will have on New York City's already under-resourced education system. Less funding will result in larger class sizes, fewer tutoring programs and thousands of teachers being laid off.

Doza noted a raised bar for students imposed by the state: by 2012, high school students will be required to graduate with a Regents diploma.

"When you request such high standards, like a Regents diploma, then you need to provide those resources and services to those students," said Doza.

Some students are already experiencing the sting of under-funding, and the budget cuts have not even been approved yet.

Audit Rahman, a senior at Newtown High School, noticed that his school is offering fewer classes and lending out less textbooks than last year.

The budget cuts will also affect higher education in the form of CUNY and SUNY tuition hikes. Rahman plans on attending Hunter College, which will be subject to higher tuition if the proposal passes.

"Youths need to speak out what they think is correct, because usually whenever we say something, the higher people don't really take it seriously," said Rahman.

He is of course referring to winning the support of legislators, which is critical if students are to have a fighting chance.

DRUM members asked commuters to pressure State Senator Hiram Monserrate, a Queens native and longtime advocate for education, to stand behind the students.

As for Paterson, DRUM wants him to take note of this: do not write students off simply because they are young.

"If you see in history, the Civil Rights Movement and a lot of other movements, young people are the ones that actually took a stand," said Doza. "When young people unite, they can make a difference, and young people are making a difference."
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