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Take our money, CECs say - Presidents offer to sacrifice funding to save schools

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Don’t take money away from public schools – take it from Community Education Councils (CEC).

Surprisingly, that suggesting was made by CEC presidents, according to Ronald Stewart, president of the council for District 21, which advocates for schools in Coney Island and Bensonhurst.

During a recent meeting between schools Chancellor Joel Klein and the presidents of all the CECs in the city, “They asked if there were cuts to the CECs. He said no,” Stewart recalled.

“Members of the CEC said they were willing, if it would help, to cut some of the budgets of the CECs to keep money in the schools,” Stewart explained at his CEC’s meeting last week, which was held at I.S. 303 at 501 West Avenue.

The offer comes in light of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed budget cuts for public schools, which are now being reviewed by the City Council as its members negotiate a city budget with Bloomberg.

“We told [Klein] that we will do anything possible to make sure these cuts don’t happen,” Stewart said.

If the cuts move forward as is, several schools in District 21 will lose a significant amount of money.

According to DOE data, reductions would be Mark Twain School for the Gifted and Talented at 2401 Neptune Avenue – $287,000, I.S. 98 Bay Academy at 1401 Emmons Avenue – $225,000, and P.S. 52 Sheepshead Bay at 2675 East 29th Street – $163,000.

Madelene Chan, principal of P.S. 90 at 2840 West 12th Street, said she’ll lose seven teachers in September because she can’t afford their salaries.

As a result, “my academic intervention specialists program,” she explained, “has been cut in half.”

The program provides tutoring in reading and math.

Judy Gerowitz,, District 21’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) representative, said budget cuts have forced many schools to let teachers go.

“This has happened throughout the district. And if it happened throughout the district, it’s happened throughout the city,” she said.

“These cutbacks are unfair. Not only unfair but wrong,” Stewart said.

The city Department of Education (DOE) is taking controversial steps to decrease the amount of money schools would lose.

Klein is asking the state to change how the DOE can spend Contracts for Excellence money, which is being allocated to rectify years of underfunding as per the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit. The money is being provided with stipulations that it must be spent in the neediest schools.

But Klein says the DOE already allocates funding specifically for high-need students and schools. If he wins in court, he would spread the Contracts for Excellence money out to all schools, thereby allowing each school to take a 1.4 percent cut.

But critics argue that the Contracts for Excellence money was earmarked for struggling schools and should be spent that way.

City Councilmember Domenic Recchia (D-Coney Island) says, “He’s trying to pit school against school, parent against parent.”

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