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To shave budgets, principals are cutting supplies, after-school

As Elizabeth noted, the city Department of Education could be looking at nearly $600 million in cuts in the next year. With numbers like that on the horizon, it’s easy to forget that less than a month ago, the DOE cut $180 million from this year’s budget. We already learned that the department planned to cut nearly 500 staff positions centrally. But individual schools also had to cut a total of $104 million from their budgets in the middle of the year, long after most principals had completed making spending decisions for most of their funds. How did they do it?

At yesterday’s Panel for Educational Policy meeting in Brooklyn, the DOE’s chief operating officer, Photeine Anagnostopoulos, provided some answers. Here’s what she said schools cut from their budgets:

  • $63 million in funds that had not already been earmarked for a specific purpose. Especially after last year, when schools had their budgets cut overnight in the middle of the year, principals planned ahead for having to give back some of their funds by not spending them all right away. November’s cuts wiped out these budget cushions.
  • $14 million in OTPS, or Other than Personnel Services. This often means equipment and supplies.
  • $12 million in funds that were earmarked to fill teacher vacancies. Anagnostopolous said schools can use federal funds and money from other sources to pay for teachers, so few teacher positions will actually remain unfilled because of November’s budget cuts.
  • $9.2 million in per session payments to teachers. The teachers union contract requires schools to pay teachers extra when they work before or after the school day. Schools can save money by cutting programming outside of the regular school day and thus eliminating these “per session” payments.
  • $5.2 million in per diem payments for substitute teachers.
  • $1 million in support staff salaries.
  • $600,000 in salaries for school administrators.
  • And $455,000 in funds to support professional development for teachers.

Anagnostopolous said the DOE tried to insulate schools from the November cuts as much as possible by cutting 6 percent of the central DOE budget and only an average of 1.3 percent of individual schools’ budgets. That split is “going to be difficult to maintain” as the system handles more cuts going forward, she said.

And Anagnostopolous said about 80 percent of each school’s budget is tied up in compensating its teachers. This means that deeper cuts could require layoffs of teachers and staff.

Here’s a chart from the DOE’s budget PowerPoint that shows what kinds of programs are being affected within each category of cuts:

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