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Parent training center put on hold as city waits for state funds

Months after the city and the State Senate made a deal to create a parent-training center, plans for the center have come to a standstill as both sides wait for someone to fund the project.

Won as part of a deal between a group of runaway senators and Mayor Bloomberg during last summer’s mayoral control debate, the center would be housed at CUNY and would cost the city and state a total of $1.6 million. Advocates for the center’s creation have said it would address concerns that the current mayoral control law keeps parents out of the political process. They said the center would train parents who normally wouldn’t get involved to serve on community education councils and school leadership teams.

Though they have agreed to split the cost, neither the Department of Education nor the State Senate has yet to commit any money to the project.

Selvena Brooks, a spokeswoman for Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, said the city and state are still “in talks” about how to fund the center. “Once we formalize a commitment, the funds will forthcoming,” she said.

A DOE official who insisted that he speak on background said the city will not pay its share of the funds until the Senate does the same.

Meanwhile, the man charged with overseeing the center’s development is waiting patiently. John Mogulescu, the Senior University Dean for Academic Affairs and the Dean of the School of Professional Studies at CUNY, said he was waiting for both sides to allocate the funding before beginning work on the center.

According to the DOE official, the Senate could allocate the money in one of two ways. In one scenario, senators could dip into their discretionary funds, which can range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to several million, in order to pay for the center. Another option is to wait until the State Legislature returns to Albany in January and have the center’s funding inserted into the new budget.

Neither choice is particularly attractive. By now, many senators have spent their discretionary funds on other causes, such as building playgrounds or senior centers. And a $3 billion gap in the state’s budget could make it difficult for senators to set aside money in next year’s budget.

Sources in the State Senate and Assembly questioned whether the city needed to wait for the Senate’s allocation. “The city is punting this to the legislature,” one source said. “There might be other ways. The city seems to be limiting their options.”

Update: DOE spokesman David Cantor writes that the department and the state legislature made a deal in August that the city would match the Senate’s funds. The agreement letter is below:

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