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Cut too deep, pols vow to block budget - City councilmembers say they won’t support plan until school funding is restored

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Three Brooklyn City Council members say they won’t approve the city’s budget unless full funding is restored for public schools – and they want local residents to get their elected officials to do the same.

“We cannot cut to our classrooms in any particular way,” Councilmember Bill de Blasio (D–Park Slope) said at a rally against school budget cuts in Coney Island.

“If this budget proceeds,” he said, “I will vote against that budget no matter what.”

Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) said it’s a matter of equity.

“When it comes time to build a new Yankee Stadium, there’s enough money in the budget to build a stadium,” he said. “When it’s time to build a stadium at Atlantic Yards, there’s enough money to build a stadium.”

But for public schools, “we’re told it’s time to tighten our belts,” he said.

“Enough is enough. Put the priorities in order. Put children first,” he continued.

The city’s public schools lost $180 million earlier this year. In September, they’ll lose 1.4 to six percent of their budgets, depending on several variables like the number of students with special needs. That cut can be $35,000 to one school and $500,000 to another depending on the percentage cut.

Expected budget cuts for individual schools are posted on the city Department of Education’s (DOE) website at http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/BudgetsFairStudentFunding/YourSchoolBudget/default.htm.

According to DOE records, M.S. 51 in Park Slope will lose $209,829. Edward R. Murrow High School in Midwood will lose $578,003. In Bay Ridge, Fort Hamilton High School will lose $427,044.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is currently fighting a legal battle 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.

“He wants to change certain laws, he wants to change how they give out the money,” said Councilmember Domenic Recchia (D-Coney Island). “He’s trying to pit school against school, parent against parent.”

As they negotiate a fiscal year budget with the mayor, City Council members are pushing for absolutely no funding cuts to public schools.

“We’re not going to vote on this budget or pass it unless all the money is restored to education,” Recchia said.

Last month, Councilmember Lew Fidler (D-Canarsie/Marine Park) told the Mill Island Civic Association, “The Council has said and I have said that we will not pass a budget that cuts that aid to city classrooms.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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