Parents’ patience wears thin - Superintendent forced to admit school budget ‘cuts’

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A discussion about school budget cuts turned into a heated exchange between parents and a city Department of Education (DOE) official.

The hot topic was raised when Rubain Dorancy of the DOE’s Integrated Service Center spoke at a meeting of the Community Education Council (CEC) for District 22, which advocates for schools in Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach, and parts of Midwood, Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay.

Members of the CEC took issue with Dorancy’s initial avoidance of the words “budget cuts” and insistence that schools are facing “a reduction of principals’ spending power.”

Holding a sheet listing the funding decreases for local schools, CEC President Christopher Spinelli said, “This is from the deputy chancellor and it does say ‘net cut amount’ so that’s a cut.”

“Okay, it’s a cut, it’s a cut, it’s a cut,” acknowledged Community Superintendent Marianne Ferrara.

Regardless of what it’s called, Brooklyn schools will lose thousands of dollars this September if budget cuts proposed by the mayor are approved by the City Council as is.

According to DOE data, District 22 schools will lose a significant amount of money. Here’s a brief breakdown: P.S. 312 at 7103 Avenue T – $270,000, P.S. 207 at 4011 Fillmore Avenue – $280,000, and P.S. 236 at 6302 Avenue U – $154,000.

Faced with such cuts, many schools are ending their after-school programs and/or letting teachers go.

With fewer teachers, “the way they’re going to manage it is they’re going to go from five classes to four or three classes. That’s going to increase class size,” Spinelli said. “They’re going to lose enrichment.”

Trying to lessen the blow of the budget cuts, Dorancy repeated the DOE’s previous assertion that the city has significantly increased funding for public schools in recent years.

“You have to put this in context that over the last seven years, New York City has increased the [DOE’s] budget by 79 percent,” Dorancy said.

Spinelli argued, “It’s nice that you put all this money into schools in prior years but you’re taking it back now and you’re taking it out of the classrooms.”

Parents argued that it’s unethical to take money away from schools since the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit resulted in New York City’s schools being deemed severely underfunded and ordered billions of dollars to be sent to the local school system.

Any budget cut “totally flies in the face of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity which the state gave us money for,” Spinelli said. “The whole goal of that was to reduce class size.”

Michael Benjamin, the CEC’s first vice president, said it’s “unconscion­able” to cut schools’ budgets.

Rather than take money from schools, parents said the DOE should stop using consultants from other countries who are paid millions to visit New York City schools and offer advice for how to boost student achievement.

“Keep the money in this country,” asserted Tina Maffeo, who has a child at P.S. 52, the Sheepshead Bay School, at 2675 East 29th Street.

The DOE says it is cutting millions from the bureaucracy at its Manhattan headquarters.

Spinelli encouraged parents to “call their local City Council member or call 311 to discuss the proposed budget cuts.”

Benjamin has his own message for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

“Shame on you. It’s really not right what you’re doing,” he said.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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