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Bloomberg lists central budget cuts to accompany schools' hit

Following up on his promise to detail school budget cuts required by the collapse of a teacher evaluation deal earlier this month, Mayor Bloomberg today described how he plans to reduce costs in the Department of Education’s central administration.

The rest of the $250 million funding will cut come from schools, Bloomberg said during a press conference in which he announced the first city budget revision to reflect costs incurred from Hurricane Sandy.

In addition to the cuts that Chancellor Dennis Walcott outlined in an email to principals on Monday, Bloomberg said he would restrict hiring centrally and eliminate vacancies in areas such as administration, human resources, budget, and help desk staff.

He said the city would also cut non-personnel costs–the costs of running an office that don’t include staff salaries–in administrative and field-based offices by 90 percent, and reduce spending on contracts for services such as youth development, professional development, and anti-bullying programs.

Special education will take a hit, with reduced funding for pre-K, transportation, and non-public schools.

The proposed funding changes drew a flurry of critical statements from advocates and elected officials, who focused on cuts to after-school programs, early childhood education, and teacher hiring.

“Every year the notices go out to parents, informing them that the early childhood education program or after-school program they’ve built their lives around has been cut,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who announced this week he’s officially running for mayor. “Whether the services get restored or not, lives are upended and providers are left scrambling…Our children’s futures deserve more than yet another version of the budget dance.”

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn raised concerns about the level of teacher attrition that would take place under the new plan. “While some level of attrition is always a reality, the Mayor’s proposed extremely high levels of teacher attrition would be detrimental to the quality of our city’s education system,” she said.

Bloomberg’s announcement was short on details as to how those cuts would be made and what exactly their effects would be. Instead, the Mayor continued his offense against the UFT and the state for putting the city in this situation.

Bloomberg criticized the state for threatening to withold additional funds alongside the expected $250 million if the city and the union does not reach an evaluation deal by February 14. “We’re hoping the legislature will ensure that this loss of state education aid doesn’t become a perpetual 250 million dollar penalty against our schoolchildren next year and every year thereafter, which is what the current state budget would make it,” he said.

Budget plans could change if an evaluation deal is reached and the budget is restored.

Bloomberg argued that the state is not doing its part to provide for New York City students. Citing an $8 billion per year increase in city spending on education since he took office, he said, “We have not walked away from education in spite of the fact that I would argue that the state has walked away from us.”

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