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Mayor backs down on school cuts

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There will be no budget cuts for public schools this September.

That’s because the mayor and City Council agreed on a fiscal year 2009 city budget that will send $129 million in additional funding to the city Department of Education (DOE). The money will reverse the $99 million in budget cuts public schools were to incur this September. The bureaucracy at DOE’s central headquarters will still receive a $200 million cut.

“Obviously I’m ecstatic,” said District 22 Community Education Council (CEC) President Christopher Spinelli, whose son attends P.S. 207 in Marine Park. “There are a huge number of schools in District 22 that are non-Title One and have very small discretionary funds and they were going to really suffer under these cuts.”

Not only are the funding cuts nixed, “over 300 schools will see increased budgets,” explained a DOE spokesperson.

Brooklyn schools would have been hit hard if the budget cuts had gone through.

According to DOE data, reductions would have been at 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 would lose seven teachers in September because she couldn’t afford their salaries. That would have “cut in half” an academic intervention program providing tutoring in reading and math.

Many Brooklyn principals also said they would eliminate after-school programs, limit teacher training, and even let some teachers go, which would have resulted in increased class size.

“I think everyone is breathing a sigh of relief that they’re not going to have to make these changes,” Spinelli said.

“This will allow us to keep teachers and many of the programs that were to be cut,” said District 21 CEC President Ronald Stewart, who has two daughters at Brooklyn Studio Secondary School in Bensonhurst.

Parents played a major role in getting the funding restored. Since the first round of budget cuts earlier this year, parents held several protests to demand that their City Council members reinstate the funding that Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed for cuts.

“They put the pressure where the pressure was needed,” Stewart said.

The $129 million in additional funding includes the remaining $63 million in Contracts for Excellence money, which was allocated based on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) case with stipulations that it be spent in the neediest schools and to lower class sizes.

When schools were facing budget cuts this September, schools Chancellor Joel Klein filed a legal challenge to eliminate the stipulations so the money could be spread out to all public schools. But now that funding is restored, Klein will drop his challenge and the money will be spent as mandated, according to a DOE spokesperson.

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