2008-06-27 / Top Stories

Ed Panel Votes 8-1 For Budget Cuts

New Queens Rep Votes With Majority
By Norman Scott Special To The Wave

On June 23, the PEP (the quasi Board of Ed) in an 8-1 vote, endorsed the educational budget with its incumbent cuts on the schools while ignoring Tweed's overspending on frills like $25 million for merit pay for teachers based on test scores. (The first year of this program, which was privately funded, has not been evaluated.) Recently appointed (by Borough President Helen Marshall) Queens rep Dmytro Fedkowskyj went along with the majority. But he did read a statement (see below).

As usual, the Manhattan rep Patrick Sullivan was the lone dissenter.

Patrick Sullivan comments:

"I can't speak for other boroughs or comment on their logic but the state law is pretty clear from my perspective. The PEP is supposed to 'approve an estimate of the total sum of money deemed necessary for school operations in the next fiscal year.' The budget presented had cuts to the classrooms so it was clearly not sufficient to fund school operations. The DOE did not provide the estimate required by law, rather they took what the mayor said they could work with, and cut school spending until they got to his number.

"The lack of disclosure and transparency also made it extremely difficult to assess how appropriate the amount was. DOE would not provide budget code level detail (individual offices within Tweed) or respond in writing to my questions about cost increases. The lack of transparency alone was a sufficient reason to vote against the proposed budget."

A Queens parent said:

"Patrick, you are always so eloquent and accurate and I thank you. It is your 'peers' on the PEP that still continue to disappoint me. I am from Queens and was told by many that our new rep was 'great.' Being from Queens talking the talk, but not walking the walk is unacceptable. Considering how long BP Marshall took to make her selection, it is obvious she was just trying to find another puppet and finding puppets in Queens is not that easy, in as I was made aware of qualitative leaders that had put their hats in for the position. Parents in Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn and the Bronx require true representatives, like yourself, not mayoral sellouts."

Another Queens parent asking Fedkowskyj about his affirmative vote, was sent the statement he read at the meeting:

Dear Chancellor, Panel members and members of the public:

At this time, Borough President Marshall and I are most concerned about the proposed school budget cuts that will affect most of our schools, but feel the $17.5 billion dollars in the Department of Education's budget is sufficient to operate the educational system. At this time, this panel and our borough presidents do not have the power to approve appropriations of the expense budget- how to spend it and where to spend it- but can only approve a total estimate for total operations. Since members of the City Council have oversight of the City's budget, Queens is hopeful that the City Council will address and correct the school budget-cut issue so that our city schools do not have to suffer any cuts to the classroom.

Even though this panel isn't empowered to approve expense appropriations, these areas of concern should be addressed by the Department of Education as soon as possible so that a budget cut scenario can be eliminated as an option in the following year's budget since revenue streams are projected to be much lower.

Areas of concern are as follows:

At this time, the budget includes an increase of $70 million in city funding for Charter Schools. While any investment in education is welcomed and no one wants to see any cuts to any school, it is unfair that our traditional public schools receive cuts while others do not. If the DOE must cut budgets, then it's imperative that these cuts be implemented equitably and with no set of children baring an unfair burden. The increase in city funding towards Charter Schools is something the City can't afford to pay and since projected revenue streams for next year look to be far less, serious consideration should be given to delay the opening of any future Charter Schools until the City's economy and financial times become more stable.

Fair Student Funding is supposed to incorporate unrestricted funding from State and City governments, but our students aren't going to see an increase even though the State has delivered $150 million in unrestricted funds.

The money is being used to cover other expenses, instead of being applied to the funding formula. Instead, a portion, if not all of these funds, should be applied towards the formula first before being applied to other expenses and other DOE policy changes. These expenses and policy changes should be covered by other city funding sources.

I want to thank the Chancellor, his office, members of the Panel and members of the public for their time on this matter.

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