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Imagining the scale of next year's school budget cuts

The Daily News reports this morning that Governor Paterson will propose cutting $206 million from the New York City schools. Mayor Bloomberg has already guess-timated his likely cut to the schools next year at $385 million. Both numbers are moving targets, changeable if the two executives’ legislative bodies push to do so. (Recall that just a few months ago, the state legislature axed a plan by Paterson to cut state funding to schools in the middle of this school year.)

But let’s assume that the mayor and governor do get what they’re asking for. That would be a grand total of $591 million slashed from city schools budgets in the 2009-2010 school year. We can get an extremely rough estimate of what that might look like on the ground by thinking about the cuts the mayor ordered in the middle of this school year. The cut, of $181 million, happened by eliminating 475 bureaucratic jobs; delaying or cutting a half-dozen or so small centrally administered programs; and slicing 1.3% from school budgets. If we scale each of these up by a factor of 3.2 (the amount by which $591 million is larger than $181 million), we get:

  • 1,550 jobs cut from central
  • more miscellaneous program cuts from central, some of which will indirectly affect schools
  • 4.16% cut to each school budget

Another way to think about it: Already, the public school system has lost $560 million since Mayor Bloomberg ordered cuts in the middle of the 2007-2008 school year. A $591 million cut would essentially repeat what just happened. A reminder of how the $560 million cuts broke down:

Finally, here’s a question I don’t know the answer to (yet): Up until now, most cuts have taken money not from a baseline amount that schools had the year before, but from an expected increase the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit was supposed to generate. Are we now in territory that represents cuts below even the CFE lines? (Paging Billy Easton!)

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