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Defending cuts to some city services, Bloomberg cites Klein

The city Department of Education is spared the worst of city agencies’ impending budget cuts, according to the executive budget proposal released by Mayor Bloomberg today for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Lots of city agencies are being asked to fire employees, and spending citywide on capital projects has been slashed by 27 percent, Bloomberg said at a briefing for reporters about the plan today. On the other hand, he said, “We have a school system that we are putting more money in than we did last year.” The budget proposed today includes $10,810,000 in city funds for public schools. By the end of the current fiscal year, according to budget documents distributed today, the DOE will have received $10,462,000 in city funds.

The DOE is being asked merely not to replace teachers who leave, not outright fire teachers, Bloomberg said. Plus, he said, federal stabilization money will allow the DOE to escape the deep cuts in capital funds that other city agencies are experiencing. Although the new capital plan is smaller than the one that is now ending, the DOE is being spared the 27 percent capital budget reduction that other agencies are set to experience. Whether the DOE would be included in a citywide reduction in capital spending had been an open question.

Responding to a reporter’s question about cuts to other agencies that could impede their ability to help needy New Yorkers, Bloomberg cited the philosophy of his chancellor, Joel Klein. “You’re never going to fix poverty until you fix public education,” Bloomberg said.

“I’m always happy to hear the mayor adopt my philosophy,” Klein told me when I asked him what he thought about hearing the philosophy he has promoted as the founder of the Education Equality Project being used to explain cuts in city services that some have called “ruthless.”

Klein sounded less sanguine when discussing the school budget picture. “This is going to be a challenging year,” the chancellor said, adding that he still predicted layoffs among non-instructional staff, an overall reduction in the number of teachers, and cuts to after school and other programs. Because of rising costs that the DOE cannot control, such as pensions and mandated special education services, even with the slight increase in total funding the department will have less discretionary funding to appropriate.

Klein had been scheduled to brief principals on the DOE’s budget earlier this week but cancelled that event because, according to a DOE spokeswoman, he didn’t yet have “actual numbers” to provide the principals. Klein told me today that principals will get preliminary budgets sometime during the week of May 18.

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