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Klein announces 1 percent midyear school budget cut

The dreaded mid-year school budget cuts have arrived. This morning, Chancellor Joel Klein instructed principals to cut their budgets by 1 percent — about $79 million across the city’s schools — by the end of January.

The Department of Education’s central and field operations budget will also be reduced by 2.5 percent, which will mean layoffs of 5 percent of central staff. (UPDATE: The layoffs will affect approximately 320 central and field office employees, DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte said.)

This is the fifth round of budget cuts the school system has sustained in the last two years, though one set of cuts in June 2008 was limited to the central office budget. In November, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the DOE to cut its spending by $113 million dollars. When the DOE announced raises to central staff last month, they were smaller than originally allocated in order to lessen cuts in other areas.

These cuts are also not likely to be the last schools see this year — Governor David Paterson has already cut state aid to school districts, and those reductions are not included in Klein’s cuts today.

Principals are banned from cutting teachers, guidance counselors and assistant principals. In past mid-year cuts, they were prohibited from excessing any staff, but this year the option to cut school aides and paraprofessionals is on the table, Forte said.

The principals union was swift to call the cuts disastrous, predicting that arts, sports, tutoring and counseling programs will begin to vanish. “Many principals have already cut to the bone and will have to cut through the bone this time and yet strive to achieve high standards for their students,” union spokeswoman Chiara Coletti said in a statement.

Klein’s memo also mentions that the city is “pursuing legislative reforms that have the potential to rein in expenses currently out of our control,” a reference to Bloomberg’s call for a one-year limit to the amount of time excessed teachers can remain on the city payroll without a position.

What is being cut from your school? Principals, teachers and parents have been chronicling cuts to their schools on our interactive budget cuts map. Please continue to let us know how your school is being affected.

UPDATE: This post originally stated that about 500 central and field staff positions will be eliminated under the cuts, based on information we received from the DOE. DOE officials have since corrected that number to around 320 positions; we’ve updated accordingly.

Klein’s full memo to principals is below:

Dear Colleagues, As you know, in November Mayor Bloomberg called on every City agency to reduce its spending to help fill a $4 billion budget gap. At the time, in percentage terms, the DOE was required to take less than half the cut required of most other City agencies, or $113 million this year and another $204 million next year. Even though our cut is smaller, the required reductions still force us to find savings at every level of this organization, including our schools. In this email, I will outline the steps we are taking to reduce our spending this fiscal year. Central and Field Reductions As in previous years, we will absorb as much of the cut as possible outside of schools. We are reducing our central and field budgets by 2.5 percent, or more than double the percentage cut we will be taking out of schools’ budgets. This includes a five percent reduction in headcount, which follows last year’s eight percent reduction in staffing. We achieved additional savings by funding only one-third of the salary increase that managers and administrative employees at every other agency received. Instead of fully funding these increases, we have redirected the remainder of the funds to central and school budgets. It’s important to emphasize, however, that central and field operations comprise less than $600 million of the Department’s $22 billion budget. These operations include critical school support services, like curriculum and professional development, payroll and human resources operations, and school technology. As a result, it is impossible to find all of the required savings outside of schools. School Reductions These savings from central and field reductions allow us to limit the midyear cut to school budgets managed by our principals to just one percent, or $79 million. We have equalized the reduction across all schools so that no school’s budget will be cut by more than one percent. District 75 school budgets are not being reduced during this midyear cut. You can log on to the Principals’ Portal to find the individual reduction for your school, including specific guidance for implementing the cut. As always, you should work closely with your School Leadership Team to set priorities; your network leader and Integrated Service Center will provide additional support. Please determine how to implement your reduction by Friday, January 29. To ensure you have all the information you need, you will receive an updated budget with register changes by January 11, a few weeks earlier than usual. Your support teams will contact you this week about the effects of register changes on your budget and help you reschedule your funds prior to submitting your proposal. While we want to give you as much latitude as possible to reduce expenses in the way that’s best for your students and staff, we must also maintain stability at schools. As a result, you will not be able to excess teachers, guidance counselors, or assistant principals. Additionally, given the City’s overall fiscal condition, schools will not have the option of rolling dollars forward into next year. You should contact your network leader or ISC if you need assistance. We have also set up an email address for budget-related questions: DOEBudget@schools.nyc.gov. And, as always, you can e-mail me directly with questions or comments. I wish I could say this is the last time I’ll have to ask you to make these hard choices, but our budget outlook remains uncertain. I can assure you, however, that cuts to schools are always a last resort and that we are pursuing legislative reforms that have the potential to rein in expenses currently out of our control. Despite these economic constraints, we cannot lose sight of our objectives. We have made too much progress over the past seven years to slow down now. This is a difficult time, but I’m confident that by setting priorities that put children first, we can continue to raise achievement levels and give our students the future they deserve. Sincerely, Joel I. Klein