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Perfect storm for schools

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Mayoral control is over, the Board of Education is back, parents say city officials are still ignoring them — and classrooms could lose an additional $340 million.

“This is a joke that’s on par with what’s happening in Albany with the Senate,” said Martha Foote, whose son attends P.S. 321 in Park Slope.

With the resurrection of the Board of Ed, the city must return to the school funding system in place before the state legislature granted Mayor Michael Bloomberg total power over public schools in 2002. That means there’s $340 million earmarked for classrooms that may be redirected to the bureaucracy. This would be on top of a $452 million cut already planned for schools this September.

Education officials are now reviewing legal jargon to determine if they can forgo some of that $340 million cut but ultimately, “We have to follow the law so we’re going to do what is required to follow the law,” a Board of Ed source said.

In the meantime, the Board’s seven members are not accepting salaries.

Even though the Board of Ed is back in charge, it seems the group will preserve the policies of mayoral control.

The new Board — which includes three deputy mayors and three Bloomberg supporters — voted to keep schools Chancellor Joel Klein in power and appointed Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott as president of the Board, thereby ensuring that Bloomberg will continue to rule, even though state legislators haven’t renewed the mayoral control law.

“The fact that there are three deputy mayors on the Board of Ed is not reassuring. The fact that they basically gave whatever authority they have over to the chancellor and they plan on not meeting until September 10th does not bode well for parent input,” said Christopher Spinelli, president of the Community Education Council (CEC) in District 22, which spans Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach and parts of Midwood, Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay.

In its eight−minute emergency meeting, which did not allow for public comment, the Board of Ed passed a resolution compelling the State Senate to back the revised mayoral control bill that the Assembly already approved.

By keeping Klein in power and voting to reconvene in September, the Board believes the Senate will have enough time to address its own internal squabbling and ultimately, reauthorize mayoral control. Education officials hope this will happen soon so there would be no legal mandate for the $340 million cut.

“I think our state legislators should get their act together and come together and take care of what we have paid them to do,” said Yoketing Eng, president of the CEC in District 21, which includes Coney Island and Bensonhurst.

If mayoral control is reenacted, parents must have a greater role in decision−making, insisted James Dandridge, president of District 18’s CEC, advocating for schools in East Flatbush and Canarsie.

“We’re looking for more oversight in regard to no−bid contracts, the School Construction Authority, the input that parents have on school openings and closings, and for parent notification before decisions are made,” Dandridge said.

If the Senate does not pass mayoral control legislation, the Board of Ed will begin “long−term planning” at its September meeting, explained Carlo Scissura, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s appointee to the Board.

It seems likely that Scissura, who left his post as District 20’s CEC president to serve as Markowitz’s chief of staff, would support implementing a mayoral control system at that September meeting.

“Marty Markowitz supports mayoral control. He supports parental involvement,” Scissura told this paper.

The city’s CECs, which replaced school boards, are also unsure of their future.

Technically, the return of the Board of Ed also means the return of school boards, which wielded significant power and, in some cases, were accused of corruption. But the law says school boards can’t elect new members until May 2010. That leaves parents without school boards or CECs.

In spite of the uncertainty, Eng said District 21’s CEC will operate as normal.

“We received a memo from Klein and he told all of us that we should just act as if the CECs do exist and we should just go ahead and have our elections. That’s what I’m going to do,” Eng said.

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