Today’s news:

Public schools to lose close to half−a−billion dollars

The public school system will lose $452 million this September.

According to the city Department of Education (DOE), that’s the “gap” between the agency’s available budget and its escalating operating costs.

As a result, schools will take a 3.8 percent cut (that figure might be higher or lower depending on the individual school) and a $20 million budget cut is planned for the DOE’s central administration at its Tweed Courthouse headquarters in Manhattan.

Brooklyn parents say the cuts will devastate local schools, which have already endured significant budget cuts in recent years as the economy has faltered.

“They’re going to be cutting essential services that children need, such as after−school programs,” said James Dandridge, president of the Community Education Council (CEC) for School District 18, which includes East Flatbush and Canarsie. “And they’re going to cut programs that give the children additional help in areas where they have the most weaknesses.”

“Schools are taking an unbelievable hit,” agreed Georgette Pezzolanti, president of the Presidents’ Council in District 21, which includes Coney Island and Bensonhurst.

“The goal of the chancellor is to give a quality education — he’s constantly raising the bar for students, teachers and administrators, and yet he’s constantly reducing the resources that they can utilize to reach those goals,” Pezzolanti said. “I just don’t know how it’s going to work and how schools are going to be able to give the kids the quality education that they deserve.”

In many instances, schools have already limited or eliminated their music, art, after−school and Saturday programs. Considering that, there’s not much “fat” left to cut, parents say.

“Teachers and principals are under tremendous pressure to have their students perform well on standardized exams so a lot of the art, music, and cultural programs have already been pared back,” said Michael Benjamin, first vice president of the CEC in District 22, which spans Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach and parts of Midwood, Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay.

“Historically, our schools are already underfunded and this can only exacerbate that problem,” Benjamin noted.

By press time, principals had not provided the DOE with outlines of their budgets to specify where the cuts would be taken.

“Right now, we need to see how principals plan on working with the expected funding and then make every effort to address serious shortfalls and protect Department of Education employees,” said City Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D−Bay Ridge⁄Dyker Heights). “I plan on continuing to fund local enrichment programs and capital projects to help bridge that gap.”

City Councilmember Lew Fidler (D—Marine Park⁄Bergen Beach) suggested the DOE cut less from schools and more from the “waste” at Tweed.

“The money has to be found and shifted to the classroom,” Fidler said.

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