The Occupy Wall Street movement spawned another education protest spin-off today, this time led by parents and held at the steps of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office in midtown Manhattan.
The new coalition of parents, many of them from Brownstone Brooklyn and accompanied by young children, assembled to voice opposition to the governor’s plan not to extend a tax on the state’s wealthiest residents.
“Occupy the DOE,” another education protest staged last night at Tweed, featured mostly teachers and veteran education activists.
Today’s event, dubbed “Occupy for Education,” was not affiliated with any previous Occupy protest, organizers said, but they borrowed heavily from them, including a human mic and many of the same chants: “We are the 99 percent” and “This is what democracy looks like.”
The protest also featured symbolic ballot boxes for people to vote in support of the so-called “millionaires’ tax,” an income surcharge for individuals who make over $200,000 or families who make over $300,000. Cuomo has repeatedly said he wants the tax to expire at the end of the year, despite voter polls showing widespread support for a newer version that would only tax millionaires. His argument is that the tax threatens to chase away the state’s wealthiest residents, which would, in effect, result in less job creation and less tax revenue, not more.
But parents today said that revenue from the tax, estimated to be $2.8 billion next year, could help restore funding to schools after years of budget cuts that have caused class sizes to rise.
“The short term job creation or protection that he claims will be the result of repealing the tax on millionaires does not justify jeopardizing or not supporting education,” said Liz Rosenberg, a Park Slope parent who helped organize the event.
Rosenberg, whose daughter attends Brooklyn New School, said she and a small group of neighborhood parents thought of the idea to protest last month in response to what they saw from the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The protest swelled to more than 100 hundred people at one point, at times stopping rush hour traffic as they marched the perimeter of the 3rd Ave. block between 41st and 42nd Sts. They stoppped outside the doors to Cuomo’s office to stuff cardboard boxes with fluorescent-colored ballots.
Polls show that more than 70 percent of voters disagree with Cuomo’s position. Last month, he compared his unpopular support for allowing the tax to expire to his father’s opposition to the death penalty when he was governor in the 1980s.
But Rosenberg says the younger Cuomo is driven more by ambition than by morals.
“It’s about wanting to run for president,” Rosenberg said. “He doesn’t want to repeal the millionaire’s tax because that’s a constituency he would need to rely on to give him money for his campaign.”
Janice Bloom, another organizer, said she helped because she said parents needed to use their numbers to raise the stakes on policies set by elected officials.
“It feels like parents are a sleeping giant in the city because we’re all voters, but we don’t exercise our votes,” said Bloom, a parent from P.S. 10. “I started thinking, what can we do to get Cuomo’s attention?”