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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Mon, Feb 11, 2008

Teachers, Principals Rally Against School Budget Cuts

By Michael Meenan, NY 1 News

There's across the board budget shaving in the face of what Mayor Michael Bloomberg says is an economic downturn, but at a Sunday rally on the steps of City Hall the message was hands off when it comes to cutting any money for city schools. NY1’s Michael Meenan filed the following report.

Last month, the city's more than $1,400 principals were told to cut a total of $100 million from their budgets – that's on top of an $80 million cut in the Department of Education's head office. But on Sunday, a union leader said Mayor Michael Bloomberg has betrayed the captains of the ships.

"You don't come in the dead of night and send an email that says, ‘I'm taking your money.’ And then snatch it up before you have the chance to be the CEO I'm asking you to be,” said Ernest Logan of the Principal’s Union.

The city says school spending is up $4 billion and that Bloomberg's driven $350 million in bureaucratic fat to classrooms. Principal and teacher salaries have risen. That's led to pretty good labor cooperation with Bloomberg's school reforms, but cooperation was not the word on Sunday.

"You saw what the bus crisis was mid-year,” said Teacher’s Union President Randi Weingarten. “Could you imagine saying to a child, ‘Oh, you're not going to have your teacher. You're going to another class?’"

Weingarten's referring to last winter's school bus rerouting plan, which left some kids curbside in the cold and parents up in arms – a taste of the rhetoric on display as city and state lawmakers go into the final stretch of hammering out next year's school budgets.

And advocates and some lawmakers NY1 spoke with said city schools should be completely exempt from any budget cutting.

"The schools didn’t have enough money to begin with. To cut it now is a catastrophe," said Queens City Councilman Eric Gioia.

The governor's budget proposal decreases this year's installment on a multi-billion dollar city school investment – thus Sunday's other theme: broken promises. The group that won the lawsuit ordering that state increase says school budgets must go untouched.

"Without the combined resources of the state and the city, we can't get the job done," said Geri Palast of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

The mayor's spokesman says Bloomberg wants to convince Albany that "... when it comes to the increased education aid that they pledged, a promise is a promise” – promises Weingarten and others say must be kept or they'll stage big and vocal protests.

Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >