Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) visited Corona’s PS 19 last week and collected about 100 signatures from parents and students within an hour imploring Mayor Michael Bloomberg not to fire 4,100 teachers from city schools.
He then took his call for action to the borough streets last Thursday.
“The issue here is to get parents engaged and make sure parents’ voices are heard,” de Blasio said.
The May 24 visit was part of a campaign de Blasio has been waging to prevent Bloomberg from laying off 4,100 teachers as proposed in his city budget. Wylie Norvell, a spokesman for de Blasio, said the public advocate has been collecting signatures, testimony and videos of parents who do not want teachers laid off.
As part of the campaign, de Blasio has also been going to schools throughout the city, and Norvell said last week he planned to visit one in each of the five boroughs. PS 19, at 98-02 Roosevelt Ave. in Corona, one of the most crowded schools in the city, was where de Blasio decided to appear in Queens.
The public advocate said the layoffs would create an “unprecedented danger” to the city school system and would constitute the largest number of teachers lost at one time since the 1970s.
“We’re going to make a bad situation worse in those schools that are overcrowded,” de Blasio said.
Ferreras, who went to PS 19 as a child, said she remembers the school bursting at the seams as a student there. She said that as the school is now, special education is taught in the hallways and lunch periods begin at 10:30 a.m.
“This is not a new issue. The problem is that we haven’t applied new solutions,” Ferreras said.
Yoselin Genao, Ferreras’ chief of staff, said PS 19 has the capacity for 1,305 students but there are 2,012 students currently enrolled.
“In the average class there’s 30 students,” said Maria Quiroz, president of the PTA who has two children at the school. “Where would all these students go?”
Eddie Paez, a fifth-grade student at the school who lives the Corona, said he signed the petition to help his teachers.
“They teach us a lot and they show us how to improve in life and what to do,” Eddie said.
De Blasio and state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) gathered more signatures and support with a series of rallies in Queens last Thursday. The public advocate’s supporters met at the Parsons Boulevard-Archer Avenue subway station, PS 40 and PS 30 in Jamaica, the Queens Plaza subway station and the Roosevelt Avenue subway station to voice their disdain against the city.
“That is 4,100 less teachers that our children will have to educate them, 4,100 less teachers our children can go to for help and guidance and 4,100 less teachers to make our schools tolerant, safe and productive,” Huntley said in a statement.
At the PS 19 drive, Ferreras said now that Dennis Walcott has become city schools chancellor, the lines of communication have been better. She said previous Schools Chancellor Cathie Black never returned her calls, but Ferreras was one of the first electeds to meet with Walcott.
“For me personally, it’s been day and night,” she said.
But the public advocate said Walcott needs to demonstrate that policy has changed among the administration.
“He has to show people there’s a change in direction at the Department of Education,” de Blasio said.
Visit parentsforteachers.com for the petition.