Students across the city left school early yesterday in a walk-out to protest the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's plan to stop giving students free Metrocards. The youngsters left school at 2 pm and gathered in front of the MTA's headquarters to demand that the agency find a way to fill its $400 million budget shortfall that won't force students to pay to commute to city schools.

More than 500,000 students currently receive the subsidized cards, which are paid for in part by the city and state, and in part by the transit agency. Amidst massive service reductions approved last week, the MTA hopes to save cash by charging students half-price fares next September and full price fares the year after that. But opponents of the controversial plan — which could cost parents more than $1,000 per year per students — say it punishes the wrong people.

"If you can bail out Wall Street for $800 billion, bail out our students," said Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) at what Fox 5 describes as a "loud but peaceful protest" that drew hundreds students and their parents (there's video of the protest here). Barron added: "If we have to, we'll shut the subway down — they won't be able to ride nobody around. If we can't ride, nobody's going to ride."