Students walkout in protest of DOE budget cuts in Lower Manhattan

Students walked out of school Thursday afternoon in protest of the mayor’s education budget cuts.

Teens from a litany of schools, including Professional Performing Arts High School and Bard High School Early College organized a walkout on Jan. 12 and rallied outside City Hall to demand Mayor Eric Adams restore the slashed budget. 

The youngsters brandished signs, telling amNewYork Metro that if they could speak to Mayor Adams, they would simply tell him to place the money back into the education system. 

High school junior Tina Zang voiced her outrage that not only were DOE budgets being slashed, but libraries also faced cuts. As a daughter of immigrants, she knows the value of a public library firsthand where they are able to have access to English classes and civic education as well as a free reading material. 

Photo by Dean Moses

“These libraries support so many of our families. My parents are immigrants so they can have access to English classes and civic education. Especially for the migrant families coming into New York City, they also need the support,” Zang said. “It’s important that we show up.” 

For months rallies have been held throughout the city demanding an end to budget cuts to New York City Schools; now students are chiming in stating that their education bears the cost of Adams’s decision to reduce funding.  

“I found that our voices, the students in New York City, were missing from these rallies. We are the ones bearing the brunt of the budget cuts and this is why it was so important that we’ve come together today at the famed City Hall to let Mayor Adams and the city council know that we want them to restore the cuts they approved,” Leahali Ali said at the rally, a junior at Bard High School Early College. “Adequate funding for our schools shouldn’t be up for discussion.”

Students are calling on the Adams administration to not only restore the cuts that were made, but to also commit to never making such detrimental decisions again. Those in the public school system state that they are facing numerous obstacles in climbing the ladder of academic success because the opportunities are no longer there for them due to DOE cuts. 

Photo by Dean Moses

New York City Council Members Tiffany Cabán and Charles Barron also joined the students, not only to lend their voices in support but to also pledge that they will not vote on any plans to reduce funds in schools.  Both representatives inquired why the DOE faced drastic cuts, as well as mental health services, but the NYPD still has an $11 billion budget.

“Shame on you mayor,” Barron said, “We have to stop the Adams family budget. The two of them are going to present another austerity Republican budget, and it’s on the city council members, the mayor doesn’t have a vote on the budget, the speaker has one vote, the council has the rest.” 

Leonie Haimson, a parent advocate and Executive Director of Class Size Matters, has been fighting for student rights for decades, pushing for legislation such as the Class Size Bill. She shared that she ran the numbers on budget cuts Thursday morning, and found that it totaled to 

$923 million compared to last year. This increase, she says, has caused class sizes to double, which in turn results in less attention one teacher can pay toward a student.  

Photo by Dean Moses

“What has that done? It’s caused class sizes to go up. It’s caused schools to lose their counselors, their art and music programs. It’s caused a real deterioration of the quality of education in our schools,” Haimson said. 

Haimson along with the rallying students shared their disappointment and disbelief that the New York City Council has not fought to bring the budget modification down, especially since the state passed a law requiring that class sizes be reduced over the next five years. 

“We need to see evidence from this mayor, this administration, this Department of Education, that they are prepared to comply with the law and start giving our students the smaller classes that the state’s highest court said under our constitution, are required for them to receive their rights to a sound basic education,” Haimson added. 

The mayor responded directly to the walkout, applauding the students for pushing for their voices to be heard. However,  hizzoner also joked that they should stay in school and stick to protesting on the weekends.

“I’m going to go to that school and I’m going to give them an analysis about budget. We want this civic engagement with our students. I think it’s commendable that they are getting involved in these important issues,” Mayor Adams said. “We believe we’ve done some great things around education. We’ll continue to do so but, hurray for those students, but just do it on a weekend.”

Photo by Dean Moses