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Cuts could shrink New York's education department to historic low

New York State’s Education Department could shrink to a historically low number of staffers next year, Education Commissioner David Steiner said this weekend.

Speaking at the United Federation of Teachers’ conference on Saturday, Steiner said told an audience of teachers that Governor Paterson’s proposed budget cut would eliminate 5o to 60 staff members if it goes through the legislature unchanged.

“We haven’t had so few colleagues in living memory,” he said.

Those cuts would come at the same time the department takes on more responsibility. Not only has Steiner promised a more active department focused on reform over regulation, he also has to carry out the U.S. Department of Education’s ambitious school turnaround plans. If the state wins $700 million in Race to the Top funding, it will mean more money, but also more work for an already diminished staff.

According to Paterson’s executive budget, the department’s general operations budget would come to $43 million next year, a decrease of $8 million from this year. The budget recommends laying off 83 people.

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