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NY State Senators pass school cuts to doomsday warnings

New York’s State Senate voted this afternoon to make deep cuts to public school funding, eliciting immediate protest from teachers unions, school boards, and New York City’s mayor.

The $1.1 billion in cuts, proposed by Governor Paterson, passed the Senate today by a vote of 32-29, with Republicans voting against it. Even before senators took the vote, rumor that they would pass the governor’s proposed budget filled the state capital, causing education groups to forecast disaster in the coming years. The cuts are far from finalized — the State Assembly still has to come up with its own budget proposal.

President of New York City’s teachers union, Michael Mulgrew, released a statement saying that as a result of the cuts, class sizes for first graders would rise to 28 students, after-school programs would disappear, and summer school would become unaffordable.

Mulgrew, who has proposed retirement incentives as a way of avoiding deep budget cuts, said the city was looking at “a return to conditions after the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, as schools put off necessary maintenance and buildings get dirtier and more dilapidated.”

Ernie Logan, president of the union for principals and school administrators, said the cuts would create a “permanent achievement gap.”

While senators and the governor are putting the total cuts at $1.1 billion, unions and advocacy groups opposing the funding reduction say it’s closer to $1.4 billion.

Mayor Bloomberg was not much happier with the cuts. In a statement he said:

“The State Senate Democrats’ budget resolution recognizes the unfairness of the Governor’s proposal to eliminate revenue sharing for New York City, but only restores half of the cut. It also fails to take common-sense measures to generate revenue that could offset a devastating school aid cut and prevent 8,500 teacher layoffs in New York City.

A survey of roughly half of the state’s superintendents that was released today shows that the total number of teacher layoffs state-wide could reach about 15,000.

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