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Under plan, city schools would lose more than $400M

The budget plan that the Senate passed yesterday essentially preserves the $1.1 billion in cuts to school aid statewide that Governor David Paterson proposed in January. That would mean a cut of over $400 million to the New York City schools for the next fiscal year, according to the state’s Division of the Budget. And that figure doesn’t even include cuts from the city that are likely to soar above $300 million.

Under the plan, state funding to the city schools would drop to $7.95 billion, below the level of the 2007-2008 school year, when the historic funding increases triggered by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit began. (See the chart above.)

The cuts are even more challenging considering that costs beyond the city’s control like teacher pensions and salaries have skyrocketed in the last several years.

No state cuts will be final until the Assembly signs off on a similar bill. Even if the Assembly eases the blow, though, big cuts in city spending will likely come next. Earlier today, city Budget Director Mark Page sent a letter to city agency heads asking them to prepare for further cuts in anticipation of Albany’s eventual budget — on top of cuts that have been planned since Bloomberg laid out a draconian budget (PDF) in January.

The first budget laid out $317 million in cuts to the Department of Education, a 4 percent cut. Now, Page is asking school officials to prepare for an additional 2.7 percent cut.

When they testified in Albany earlier this year, Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein argued that the real cost of the budget cuts to the city school system would be even worse than the governor’s budget proposal suggests. In his testimony, Klein estimated that the cuts to city schools would hit closer to $600 million, because of changes in costs and a freeze in the foundation aid that the city receives.

Another detail to note: the Senate’s plan has preserved the total amount of the governor’s proposed cuts but changed how the cuts would be distributed statewide, but I have yet to see exactly how the Senate’s distribution would hit New York City.

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