Queens students and city education advocates denounced Gov. David Paterson’s proposal to increase tuition at CUNY schools and cut about $660 million in education to the city in an attempt to help pare the state’s $15.4 billion budget deficit.
Students said Paterson’s proposal to hike annual tuition for CUNY students by $600 could force them to drop out of school, and city officials and education advocates said the slash in state aid would directly affect students and teachers in the classroom.
“It’s upsetting everyone,” Queens College freshman Kamrun Nahar said of the increase. “The whole reason people come here is for the affordable education. Increasing tuition is not a good idea.”
Public school students and teachers will have to prepare for lean times should state lawmakers agree with Paterson’s plans for education, said Marc La Vorgna, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“The mayor has said we have cut administrative costs as much as they can possibly be cut,” La Vorgna said. “We’ve cut it to the bone.”
Therefore, La Vorgna said, the next place to cut costs is in the classroom — a move education advocates said could be devastating to teachers and students in already crowded classrooms in buildings that need capital improvements.
“We recognize some cuts are inevitable, but the magnitude of what is currently proposed is chilling,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers union.
According to Leonie Haimson, director of the nonprofit Class Size Matters, the combination of reductions in aid from the state and city will mean the numbers of students in the classroom will not dwindle as city officials pledged in the city Department of Education’s capital plan.
Schools from Woodside to Forest Hills are dealing with crowded classrooms, Haimson said. For example, at PS 101 in Forest Hills, some first−grade classes have more than 30 students — almost 10 more students than the goals outlined by the DOE in its current capital plan.
DOE officials said they are working hard to continue capital improvements at Queens schools and decrease the numbers of students in classrooms.
But not all education officials foresee all doom and gloom, and Henry Flax, the associate dean for enrollment management and student development at LaGuardia Community College, said CUNY community colleges should be able to weather the financial storm.
“We’re not looking at faculty or staff layoffs, but we’re not looking at increasing services,” Flax said.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson
©2008 Community News Group
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