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Make the Road decries guv’s proposed ed cuts

A nonprofit that provides services to immigrants and has offices in Queens would lose more than a quarter of their English language classes if Gov. David Paterson’s budget cuts are enacted, parents, students and activists said at a rally in Elmhurst last week.

Nearly 100 people gathered at Make the Road NY’s Elmhurst base last Thursday to denounce the governor’s proposal to carve about $1.4 billion from education spending in the state, which would likely force the nonprofit to cut eight of its 30 classes for adults.

The 30 classes now provide instruction to more than 900 adults throughout the city and the elimination of the eight courses would affect about 250 people in Queens and Brooklyn, according to Make the Road’s director of adult literacy Julie Quinton.

“Citizenship classes, in combination with English classes, have changed my life,” said Jackson Heights resident Yolanda Gomez. “You must understand what it’s like to walk the streets, enter hospitals, schools and supermarkets completely silent, full of fear, without words to express how you feel. With English we can defend ourselves .%u2026 I feel committed to raising my voice in protest, along with all the others in my community who feel the injustice that will result from making a big cut in the budget for adult education.”

The rally in Elmhurst was one of 18 events held by a coalition of education groups throughout the state last Thursday to denounce Paterson’s budget proposal, which would cut between $500 million and $600 million in education aid to New York City schools.

Elmhurst resident Maritza Perez said she was especially concerned the cuts would impact programs that have helped her two children, now students at Newcomers High School in Long Island City, with their English and other academic skills.

“My family moved to New York City a few months ago, and my two sons began studying at Newcomers High School this past September,” said Perez, originally of the Dominican Republic. “This is a good school, and they get counseling, tutoring and extra support classes in English and math twice a week and Saturday. This is exactly the kind of help that they need and exactly the kind of services that will be sacrificed if the governor’s proposed budget cuts go through.”

Julian Vinocur, an organizer at the Alliance for Quality Education, which helped to sponsor the events, said the proposed budget would cut $11,677 from each classroom in the state.

“We want the state Legislature to stand up and reject these bold cuts,” Vinocur said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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