NYU & Columbia Students Rally For $300 Million, Spur Counter-Protest & Cohesion [PHOTOS]

A few weeks ago, we reported on a campaign set forth by the Students for Education Reform chapters at NYU and Columbia. The mission was simple: to urge the Bloomberg administration and teachers union to settle on a teacher evaluations deal that would satisfy the pre-requisites to acquire $300 million in federal funding for New York City. Last night, a rally was held in Lower Manhattan was held for the cause. And, needless to say, it was loud.

The chapters met around 6pm at 52 Broadway, outside of the United Federation of Teachers’ headquarters, wearing red and green hats that dawned the slogan ‘”Get It Together.” However, across the street, a counter-protest held by the International Socialist Organization and others raged on as well. Regardless, the rally made its way up to City Hall, past the Occupy encampment that remains outside of Trinity Church, culminating outside of the very office that Mayor Bloomberg calls home.

Led by members from both schools, the parade of students made its way down Broadway, with chants of “Let’s keep it real – the kids need a deal” and others along the way. It was a mixture of students from both schools and even the notorious Hipster Cop from Zuccotti Park fame made an appearance. The fluidity of the crowd was an accolade that Benji de la Piedra, head of Columbia’s SFER chapter, attributed to the situation: “It’s a city-wide issue; any kid that goes to school has a stake in this. This is a cut that will be across the board so we need students from across the board.” NYPD officials followed suit and kept the crowd contained to the sidewalk.

Behind them, a yelling match broke out between the two parties over voluminous chants. The opposing side, though lacking in number compared to SFER’s turnout, aimed its attention at the SFER national organization, highlighting accusations of corporate ties and misleading information about how the $300 million would be spent.

“Less information comes with where the Race to the Top money is going. It’s a pretty bad deal for students because it’s not heading towards the classroom,” said Claire Baldi, an ISO member and NYU student. Continuing on that notion, another member argued that the “$300 million would help implement No Child Left Behind,” which was the Bush administration’s dose of standardized testing for schools across the country. Resulting chant: “Hey-hey, ho-ho, high stakes testing has got to go.

Once on Duane Street, the two groups approached the government building. The SFER students lined the steps of City Hall, hearing speeches made by high school students and organization members. The counter-protest group stood on the side, voicing lines in the air to compete with their counterpart. After twenty minutes or so, the organizations began to slowly disperse after adding their final thoughts on a conversational dilemma that’s about to hit its boiling point.

The deadline for the $300 million’s fate is January 17th, 2013. We’ll see what happens until then.




    Share Your Thoughts


  1. Paul Heideman says

    Wow, this is truly abysmal reporting. I didn’t even *mention* No Child Left Behind in my comments, much less say that RTTT money would be spent implementing NCLB. I realize education policy is very complicated, and can confuse inexperienced reporters, but this is really ridiculous.

  2. says

    @Paul: I do know my fair share of educational policy. I taught in a public school for a year and a half so calling me ‘inexperienced’ seems a bit ridiculous. However, I do have in writing that that is what you said to me. Along with the money going to data contractors and other measures that wouldn’t go necessarily to the classroom, in your opinion. So I will be keeping it as is.

    @Stephanie That was a reference to the point that the ISO organized the counter-protest. But I will fix it accordingly to include everybody. Only seems fair.

  3. Nisha Bolsey says

    It seems clear that the counter-protestors, in their (here grossly misrepresented) statements, chants, and signs, were not targeting SFER national, but the specific politics of NYU/Columbia’s “$300 million deal” campaign. The $300 million deal SFER is calling on the city and teachers to secure is Race to the Top money, which requires that states and, subsequently, districts, impose high-stakes testing and favor the expansion of charter schools. SFER NYU, by calling on this deal to be made, is necessarily calling for a contract that heavily bases NYC teacher evaluations on student test scores. How protesting this deal directly could be portrayed as protesting SFER national doesn’t make any sense to me, this specific SFER branch was clearly in support of this deal…

  4. Matt Stern says

    Hi Nisha,

    The $300 million is not, in fact, Race to the Top money. The $300 million is the 4% increase in state aid that Governor Cuomo promised districts as an incentive to meet the state law passed in 2010 that mandates the new evaluation structure (of which 20% has to be locally negotiated).

    See here for what I’m referring to (8th and 9th paragraphs, specifically): http://online.wsj.com/article/AP78e2ee2d5e194383a8bd3611809da524.html


  5. Paul Heideman says

    “Along with the money going to data contractors and other measures that wouldn’t go necessarily to the classroom, in your opinion.”

    Your powers of written expression are a match for your skill as an amanuensis. I’m sure you wrote down NCLB, but that is your error. I spoke to you about standardized testing, and never mentioned NCLB. Again, I can understand how someone out of their depth in these matters would equate standardized testing and NCLB. But I certainly never equated them.

  6. Claire Baldi says

    I was there, John, and you’re attributing what a male student standing nearby said incorrectly to Paul, but you didn’t even get what he said right. You’re also counting pretty sloppy paraphrases as direct quotes. If you can’t keep up with an interview with written notes, you should really consider recording them.

    I’d love more of an explanation about what, exactly, was “misleading” about the information about how the $300 million would be spent. Even Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said that the RTTT money would be used for specific education reforms related to implementing high-stakes testing schemes (data systems, school turnaround, etc.) The idea that SFER President Sam Williams promoted in a comment on an earlier piece, that the $300 million would “have a direct impact on classrooms across the city in supplying them with pencils, books, among many other things”, seems much more “misleading” to me.

  7. Sam Williams says

    Hey Claire,

    I really hope you see the total hypocrisy in your post pertaining to the idea of being misleading. Please go back the quote you took of mine. I said “could have a direct impact on classrooms across the city…” and you conveniently started my quote one word too late, instead implying that I used the word “would.” Now, I’m not looking to nitpick, but “could” and “would,” in the context of what I was saying, have two completely different meetings. That’s also not to say that I don’t stand by my original comments. As this money is already allocated into the budget, should the proposed budget increase be rescinded, schools would be forced to reapportion dollars.

    If you want to talk about misleading, look no further than the info section for the “Rally to Defend Students and Teachers,” which you created:
    1) “…their goal is to get New York teachers to agree to an assessment system in which 40% of a teacher’s assessment is based on standardized tests.” While 20% of the evaluations would rely on VAM, the other 20% is to be determined on a district-by-district basis. The part that is up to the district to decide does not necessarily equate to using VAM as well. In our campaign, we advocated for both sides to reach a compromise. This means other methods of evaluation should be considered for this remaining 20%
    2) “…and less say for parents and students in whether a teacher is doing a good job.” So, how much say do parents and students have in “whether [or not] a teacher is doing a good job” now? Zero. I’m not quite sure how we could possibly be looking for less input than that. If anything, I believe that students should have a voice in teacher evaluations.

    Want to talk more about misleading? Your fellow protester Stephanie Rivera tweeted “Just in: SFER already has about 50 cops there.” Claire, were there 50 cops there? Or is that a bit misleading? Before you make remarks such as these, please make sure that you check yourself and those with whom you ally yourself.

    We reached out to you to have a discussion in person, which you declined and instead asked for “something written up by NYU SFER for the branch to read.” I, along with the other members on the E-board are never ones to shy away from a respectful and thoughtful person-to-person conversation. So when you decided to change your mind and sit down and talk to us, we’ll be waiting. Until then, please make sure not to say anything that could be “misleading.”.