Hundreds of city students at John F. Kennedy and Eastside High Schools will protest the deep cuts to education proposed by the state-operated school district with a walk out demonstration on March 15th, 2016, according to organizers.
Former school board member Corey Teague said more than 500 high school students have joined the demonstration to walk out on that day to protest education cuts. He said there will also be demonstrations at elementary schools.
Teague said the protest will be a peaceful demonstration against the underfunding of the district and the budget cuts. He said the students will arrive at the school buildings, but will stand outside rather than heading to their classrooms.
A mother of two elementary school students Michele Brown said she joined the demonstration to protest the $38 million worth of budget cuts the district is looking to impose.
“If they are not going to give them a proper education why show up?” remarked Brown, mother of two School 21 students. She said her kids went without teachers for a full marking period.
Brown said she is concerned about her 4th and 7th graders. Teague said about 100 parents have signed up to demonstrate against the cuts on that day.
“The children will suffer. Paterson is already suffering and struggling. Now, they are putting children at risk by taking out certain programs,” said Cinda Wallace, a resident, one of the organizers of the demonstration.
Students at Eastside High School and John F. Kennedy High School have been angry over the potential cuts to the district’s athletics program which will dismantle their respective home teams.
“Sports is what motivate kids to go to school,” said Teague. “We’re trying to get them to get that off the cuts list.”
Education officials said the district will merge the teams at both schools to reduce expenses. School board member Kenneth Simmons has said the merger will not bring savings in the first two years.
Simmons said the merger will cost money in branded uniform and so forth. He said the district may start seeing savings in the third year.
Kimi Wei, a social activist, who is playing a role in organizing the demonstration, said public schools in urban hubs are under attack.
Wei citied Newark, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia. “I think people really pay attention when young people get upset about something,” she said.
The demonstrators have some big demands: no cuts to the athletics program, no closure of school buildings, no tax increase, no cuts to special education, full funding of public schools, and the resignation of state-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans.
“You cannot be reasonable about these things,” said Wei. “People need to start asking for what they need.”
People have been asking for what they need. A large number of parents and activists descended at the New Jersey Assembly budget hearing at Montclair University on Wednesday to entreat the state to provide more funding to city schools.
Many chanted, “More funding for schools!” at the hearing.
School board member Jonathan Hodges said parents have been dormant for far too long. “It may have reached the point where parents have to begin to take action,” he said.
If parents of 30,000 students shutdown the schools it will send a message, said Hodges.
“Our children need what they are entitled to,” said Sailys Cabral, a mother of three city children, who attend the public schools.
Cabral said last year’s cut left one of her child’s school without a permanent nurse. She said when her son was bleeding profusely as a result of a medical condition the school did not have a nurse tend to him.
Cabral said her son had to be taken to the hospital as a result.