by Silver Tyler
The realities of what our public school kids learn in school and what politicians actually do collided like two trains going in opposite directions last Monday outside MTA headquarters. Entitled to a free, compulsory education, students will now have to pay to get to school, under the newly-adopted MTA budget for 2010.
The freezing cold weather couldn’t keep hundreds of teens — some of whom left school early — from gathering at 3PM outside 347 Madison Avenue to protest the MTA’s decision to end the student MetroCard program.
Chanting, “We won’t pay, MTA!” and “Shame on you!” the students, parents and advocates roared their disapproval of the MTA’s plan to phase out free and discounted fares for the over half a million students who currently receive them. Half the discount would be eliminated by September 2010, with the rest to go by 2011. The cuts are a consequence of dramatic decreases in State and City funding for the public authority, with mismanagment of projects llike the renovation of 2 Broadway also taking their toll.
The MTA itself currently pays $70 million to fund the student MetroCard program, but this is slated to end.
Going to school is a law, so you shouldn’t have to pay,” said Marisa Gershenhorn, a freshman at LaGuardia-Mann High School in Manhattan, who stood next to fellow students Megan Crawford, who commutes two hours from Mill Basin in Brooklyn, and Eowyn Bennett, whose trip from East New York takes her ninety minutes each morning.
Mayor Bloomberg’s education reforms have led to the closing of many neighborhood high schools, forcing more students to use public transportation and endure lengthy commutes.
Brendan Spadaro and Conor Sinott, both juniors who live in Brooklyn and attend the charter School of the Future on East 22nd Street, said they and their friends would do whatever it takes to get to school if the funding was cut. All say they plan to start hopping the turnstiles if they have to, rather than skip school. Spadaro also pointed out that sometimes the Metro Card vending machines don’t work at their local stations and there is no Station Agent to assist them, making it impossible to buy a new MetroCard.
“Twenty-five hundred dollars a year is too much,” said Lucas London, 15, who attends the same school as Spadaro and Sinott, and takes the 6 train from the Upper East Side. “I’m middle class, but so many students aren’t, and they’d have to cut back on things the family needs. This is going to destroy families.”
Two representatives from the University Student Senate at CUNY, Tatiana Benjamin, Vice Chairperson for the Senior Colleges, and Cory Provost, Chairperson of the USS and a Board Trustee at CUNY, came out to lend their support. Mr. Provost, who graduated from Thomas Jefferson HS in 2003, and received the full benefit of the program, said he empathizes with the students. “In this economic climate cutting the funds is unconscionable.”
“They are the future,” said Ms. Benjamin, as they stood watching.