By Michèle De Meglio
Brooklyn’s public school students want their money! Local teens are leading protests, holding meetings, and speaking out about school budget cuts, which have already taken $180 million from schools. They’ve even formed a new organization – Students Against DOE Budget Cuts – to send a message to city and state officials that the city Department of Education cannot afford to lose money meant for instruction. “Give us the necessary tools to continue what we need to do,” Gizzelle Lopez, a member of Students Against DOE Budget Cuts, said at a rally outside City Hall. Due to the cuts, schools are losing funding for extracurricular activities, tutoring services, after-school programs, and professional development opportunities for teachers. Principals have even said they could lose teachers, which would lead to increased class size. “It’s bad,” Darien Doig, an 11th grader at Bedford Academy High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, said of the budget cuts. “It’s taking a lot of the resources away.” “It’s cutting programs,” said Steven Brunson, a 12th grader at Bedford Academy. Critics of the budget cuts are taking notice of students’ involvement. “The students demand that the promises be kept,” said Hazel Dukes of the New York State National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Students also received support from the City Council, which is trying to reverse the budget cuts. Council members Bill de Blasio and Robert Jackson, who represents Manhattan, introduced a resolution “calling upon the mayor to submit an executive budget for fiscal year 2009 that restores proposed cuts to the Department of Education budget.” “These cuts are reversible,” de Blasio says. “We have to stop this before mayors and governors try to do this regularly.” Students Against DOE Budget Cuts will hold its next meeting on April 16 at 5 p.m. at the John Jay Educational Campus, located at 237 7th Avenue in Park Slope.