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Protesters hit City Hall to decry education cuts

"How can Mayor Bloomberg talk about embracing immigrant communities in his State of the City address, then basically renege on his agreement to provide immigrant students the help they need?" asked Chung Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. The mayor's preliminary budget cuts out an existing allocation of $15 million that would have gone toward 113 English language learner teaching jobs in the public school system this year and 226 positions next year. "We have chosen this Valentine's Day to ask why this so badly needed money for the future of New York City is to be eliminated," said Javier Valdes of the New York Immigrants Coalition. Valdes said that less than a month after he embraced immigrants in his State of the City address, the mayor is turning his back on these immigrants. "It's Valentine's Day.Where is the love?" Valdes asked. Councilmen John Liu (D-Flushing) and Hiram Monserrate (D-Jackson Heights also spoke out against the education cuts."We have here in our immigrant community the future of New York City," Liu said. "We are going to be asking you again and again to come back here to keep the pressure on," Liu told the demonstrators, who represented many ethnic and racial groups. The mayor's proposed reductions impose a mid-year 1.75 percent ($100 million) cut to all schools, forcing principals to eliminate intervention programs and leave teaching vacancies unfilled. Among the hardest-hit schools are Newtown High School in Elmhurst with a cut of more than $300,000, Flushing High School with $249,471, John Bowne High in Flushing with $292,529, Franklin K. Lane with $218,759 and William Cullen Bryant High in Long Island City with $294,065.The demonstrators represented a variety of immigrant advocacy groups all under the New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella organization representing more than 200 such agencies. Among the groups taking part in the demonstration were the Chinese Progress Association, the Russian-American Parents Association, The Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, the International Network for Public Schools, El Centro de la Hospitalidad and Make the Road New York.Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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