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Immigrant, advocate groups rally at Borough Hall to protest proposed education cuts

1,800 Brooklyn students fear $12 million budget cut in de Blasio proposal

May 10, 2017 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: Kevin Douglas, co-director of policy and advocacy for United Neighborhood Houses; Councilmember and Immigration Committee Chair Carlos Menchaca; and Brooklyn Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna at the Borough Hall rally. Eagle photos by Arthur De Gaeta
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“Education is a right, budget cuts are wrong,” was shouted from the steps of Borough Hall on Wednesday morning, as students from all across the borough joined elected officials to protest a feared $12 million budget cut in education programs. They lined the steps of Borough Hall holding up signs protesting proposed cuts for English programs that they believe are essential for immigrants to learn the language and find better jobs.

According to the New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy (NYCCAL), a collection of nonprofit community-based organizations, libraries and City of New York (CUNY) branches that provide English language and other adult literacy programs, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2018 Executive Budget contains a $12 million funding cut that will eliminate literacy classes for more than 5,500 students throughout the city, including 1,800 in Brooklyn alone. Advocates say that without these classes, immigrants would not be able to get better jobs.

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Kevin Douglas, co-director of policy and advocacy for United Neighborhood Houses, introduced the elected officials attending the protest including Brooklyn Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna and Councilmember and Immigration Committee Chair Carlos Menchaca.

Reyna thanked the New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy and the citywide coalition of community-based organizations, including Opportunity for a Better Tomorrow (OBT) for their leadership in organizing the rally, and Councilmember Menchaca.

Menchaca told the students and organizations that he was their champion for adult education in New York City. He said the purpose of the rally is to send a strong message to the administration during budget season in order to win back the $12 million they received last year.

He added that as much as children need an education, adults also need to be educated so that they can teach their children. And through education, adults can have access to better jobs. Menchaca received a loud round of applause when he identified himself as a proud “Mexican, hyphen, American,” and the first Mexican-American elected official in the city of New York. “The mayor listened to us last year,” he said. “And he needs to listen to us again.”

“We’re here with hundreds of other people, students and teachers and organizations, with one very clear message: education is a right and the New York City budget should reflect that value of education for everyone,” Menchaca told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“Immigrants and anyone who needs an education should be able to get a high school education in order to get access to the job they want.  So for us, this is a victory.

“Last year, through my leadership, we landed a $12 million initiative that included thousands of new classes across the city. Now we want that back in the budget, so we’re back to make sure the mayor listens to us. He heard us last year and we’re confident he’ll hear us this year. We just need to make sure our voices are loud so that we are heard.”

Student speakers included an adult education student from CUNY who said she was speaking to the crowd for the first time in English, her second language.  A student from CUNY Citi Tech said it was very important to have the opportunity to learn the English language in order to succeed in life.

An educator from the Chinese-American Planning Council said, “We must have adult education in New York City for our adult immigrants to show the rest of the country that immigrants make America great.”


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