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On the budget cuts, more that we know, and more that we don't

I live-blogged the City Council hearing on the education budget today, where school officials explained in more detail than ever before how they plan to cut $180 million from the Department of Education budget in the middle of the year. Here’s an overview of what we know now — and what we still don’t.

WHAT WE KNOW

  • If the plan goes through as the DOE has outlined, schools will have lost about $560 million total since the mid-year cuts last year. The cuts have come from both the central bureaucracy and school budgets. How it breaks down:
  • A substantial portion of cuts will come from cutting 475 administrative positions, moves that not only cut out their salaries but also add to the “fringe” blue portion of the graph above, since the department will no longer have to cover those employees’ benefits. Of the 475 total job cuts planned for the middle of the school year, none are teaching jobs, and no full-time school positions will be cut — although principals could choose to cut back on the hours that non-teaching staff like cafeteria aides put in.
  • The largest bulk of those jobs, 284, will come from the DOE’s central offices at Tweed Courthouse. So far, 51 jobs have been selected for elimination. Those come from the Office of Portfolio Development, which manages new small schools and charter schools; the Office of Communications, which includes the press spokesmen and people who put out internal newsletters; the internal technology department; and the Office of Family Engagement, which helps parents get involved in the public schools.
  • There are three other sets of job cuts: 43 vacant positions that had been slotted for social workers monitoring pre-kindergarten programs will not be filled; 54 jobs will be lost from the Integrated Service Centers, which are strung across the boroughs and offer schools legal help, human resources staff, and other help; and 95 are jobs related to maintaining school facilities, including 71 plumbing and electrician “trade” jobs and 24 administrative jobs.
  • Schools are bearing the largest brunt of the cuts in terms of hard dollar figures, though as a percentage of total spending, central administration is cutting more — 6% of its budget compared to 1.3% for schools.
  • Other cuts are from a smattering of programs and cost-saving methods, including not hiring Teaching Fellows during the middle of the year and changing the way faculty are paid to grade standardized tests, by taking $11 million out of the $22 million that had been slated to pay teachers to grade them in their after-work hours. (Now, non-classroom teachers will be expected to grade the tests during school hours.)

WHAT WE’RE WAITING TO HEAR:

  • What will schools cut from their budgets to carve out the 1.3% that’s been ordered (pending City Council approval)? Principals had to turn in plans explaining this to the Department of Education, and the DOE promised to share the details with City Council members as soon as it knows them.
  • How will the department find 233 more positions to axe at its Tweed Courthouse headquarters? That’s the number that still haven’t been identified as on the chopping block — and which, presumably, school officials still haven’t figured out.
  • Will the City Council approve the cuts as the DOE outlined them, or will it ask for revisions? Today there were some voices of dissent: Robert Jackson, the education committee chair, said that he is not yet ready to approve the plan until he sees specifically what schools are going to cut, and other members pleaded for more efficiency at the department. Still, no council member specified a cut they wanted to see that the department wasn’t making, or drew a line in the sand that a planned cut would prevent them from signing off. The strongest voice was the public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, who asked the department to cut diagnostic tests given during the year as well as the ARIS data warehouse. But she does not sit on the council.
  • The Department of Education has not yet outlined how it plans to cut its budget in the next school year, and that will be an even bigger challenge. The cut the mayor asked from that budget: $385 million.

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