Schools escape staggering 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.

“I’m thrilled that the City Council restored the cuts. I am still angry and disappointed at the mayor for having been so stubborn that he maintained his position” in support of the cuts, said Martha Foote, whose son attends P.S. 321 in Park Slope.

“For 321, it will mean that children who need intervention services will be receiving those at the rate that they truly need,” Foote said. “That was going to be cut back. I know that it will mean that science classes and opportunities for students will be restored.”

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 M.S. 51 in Park Slope – $209,829, P.S. 230 Doris L. Cohen in Kensington – $200,900, P.S. 146 Brooklyn New School in Carroll Gardens – $167,973.

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

Education activists wondered why any cuts were being considered since the city has a $4.5 billion surplus.

“I don’t think there should have been any cuts on the table. I don’t see any fiscal justification for it frankly,” said District 15 Community Education Council (CEC) First Vice President Jim Devor, whose daughter will attend M.S. 51 in Park Slope in September.

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.

“The show of strength from parents was phenomenal,” Foote said. ‘Everyone came out in a united voice against these cuts and the City Council really heard this and responded appropriat­ely.”

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.

Updated 3:46 pm, October 19, 2011
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