Parents, teachers, and students from across the state flooded the streets of Manhattan on Saturday to call out Governor Andrew Cuomo for selling out the public school system.
"Wall Street got a bailout. Public schools were sold out," was the message as protesters rallied, surrounded by NYPD barricades, outside Cuomo's 3rd Avenue office building. The group is calling on the state government to fully fund public schools, limit high-stakes testing, support struggling schools, fairly evaluate teachers, and stop the expansion of charter schools.
Organized by a coalition of groups, the demonstration included former progressive gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, as well as other members of the Hedge Clippers—a recently founded campaign, backed by Teachout, as well as the American Federation of Teachers, and other prominent labor and community groups.
According to the group's site, the Hedge Clippers seek to "expose the mechanisms hedge funds and billionaires use to influence government and politics in order to expand their wealth, influence and power" by calling out the politicians who do their bidding.
During Saturday's protest, the group wielded large paper scissors and held signs accusing Cuomo of being the "number one recipient of hedge fund cash." Throughout the day, images from the demonstration were shared widely on Twitter as well as on the United Federation of Teachers Facebook page.
Teacher at PS 124 in Chinatown w/ child in pre-K at PS118 in Park Slope - whose sign says "Cuomo needs a time-out." pic.twitter.com/R6VBTJTpHy— UFT (@UFT) March 28, 2015
The protest follows weeks of actions targeting the Cuomo administration as lawmakers weigh the governor's proposal to tie more than $1 billion in school aid to an overhaul of the teacher evaluation system, which places extra emphasis on standardized test scores. Hundreds of people rallied at the Albany Capitol on Thursday and last week teachers from upstate New York delivered the governor 1,000 apples—each representing "a local teaching position unfilled because of years of underfunding for public education."
Groups say that the hedge fund and Wall Street billionaires, which "bought control over the New York State Senate this past election," are seeking to starve the public school system "through subsidies to private and parochial schools and through privately-run charter schools."
"Don't let Wall Street buy our public education system the way they bought the last election," reads a petition being circulated by the Alliance for Quality Education, Citizen Action New York, New York Communities, the Strong Economy For All Coalition, and the Working Families Party.