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Queens goes to City Hall demanding school dollars

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“Stop cutting our school money,” the third-grader said. “He’s using our future.”

Josie Cruz smiled as her daughter got to the heart of last...

By Kathianne Boniello

Grace Cruz, 8, came to City Hall from Flushing Friday afternoon with one message for Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“Stop cutting our school money,” the third-grader said. “He’s using our future.”

Josie Cruz smiled as her daughter got to the heart of last week’s rally, the fifth and final day of protests outside City Hall organized by the nonprofit Alliance for Quality Education. Throughout the week protesters stood on the steps of City Hall calling for public school funding and some, including “Sex and the City” television star Cynthia Nixon, were arrested each day after the protests for blocking the gate to City Hall. Nixon had been arrested during the May 16 protest, one of the first throughout the week.

Josie Cruz did not have any plans to be arrested but said she made a point of taking her child to the protests.

“I like to bring my daughter because she should learn to put up a good fight for her future,” she said.

At which point Grace, a student at School District 25’s PS 214, quickly interjected: “Of course!”

More than 100 parents, teachers, education advocates and legislators from Queens, Harlem and the Bronx turned out Friday to protest city budget cuts to education and call on Bloomberg to put money back into the city’s public school system.

Friday’s protests came a day after the state Legislature approved a budget with more than $650 million in educational aid, including a $163 million funding increase, for the city.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, a former teacher and state assemblywoman, said it was vital for education advocates to keep pressure for funding on the mayor and City Council despite increased financial aid approved in the state budget.

“What’s here today can slip out tomorrow,” she said before the rally began. “We’re here for a little bit of insurance.”

Marshall was joined at the rally by Queens Board of Education representative Terri Thomson, who brought between 50 and 100 Queens parents along with her. City Councilmen Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) also attended.

Baysider Elaine Davidow, who represented School District 26 at the rally, agreed with Marshall.

“We really need to keep the pressure on the mayor and the City Council so the money gets to our children,” she said.

In Queens, which has the most overcrowded classrooms in the city, closets, hallways, gymnasiums and auditoriums are used as classroom space. The borough’s high schools are also the most overcrowded in the city, and some schools, such as John Adams High School in Ozone Park, run on split sessions to accommodate all the students.

Nixon, who attended Friday’s rally and patiently answered questions about her arrest May 16 while her daughter played in the City Hall courtyard, also spoke during the rally.

Bloomberg’s desire to control the public school system was addressed in different ways during the rally.

Protesters carried a number of signs, including ones that read “Mayor Bloomberg, if you want to run it — fund it!”

Nixon, who held a sign that said “Basic Math: More Money=Better Schools,” said “he cannot be the education mayor and slash the budget.”

Thomson told the protesters simply “it’s time to put our children first.”

Comrie told the crowd “we need the money now. We cannot afford to wait. We cannot convert any more bathrooms, we cannot convert any more closets. There’s no more space to convert.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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