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Tough Budget Awaits New Schools Chancellor

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The Department of Education won't be getting a mid-year budget cut and the mayor is restoring some funds schools had expected to lose in June. But it's still looking like a bleak education balance sheet will land on the desk of the new Schools Chancellor. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Hours before releasing his latest budget plan Thursday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg again praised his choice of publishing executive Cathie Black for Schools Chancellor. He says she's the right woman to lead the schools through a tough economy.

"Cathie Black comes to our department of education with the top-flight management experience and skills that qualify her superbly to guide this effort," said the mayor.

Bloomberg's budget plan is good new, bad news for the Department of Education. In June, city schools will lose $850 million in federal stimulus money, but now the mayor plans to replace all of it with city funds. But there's a catch.

The DOE budget will still be cut four percent, leaving schools with $460 million less for the 2011-2012 year. It's not the billion dollar loss educators feared, but Bloomberg says it still means the system will lose more than 6,000 teachers, some through attrition but many through layoffs. And that's not all.

"You're talking about no school supplies, maintenance goes down, class sizes of 40 and 50. You're talking about drastic measures here that are really, profoundly going to hurt children," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

In his letter Wednesday requesting a waiver from the state for Cathie Black to be chancellor, the mayor wrote:

"At Hearst, Ms. Black oversaw reductions in force, reorganizations, and closure of unprofitable magazines in order to preserve the financial stability of the company while at the same time driving the company to new heights. Given the city's current fiscal situation, Ms. Black is exceptionally qualified to make the difficult financial decisions that will be required."

But the scope of Black's financial and budgetary experience is unclear.

The 2009 Hearst Magazines annual review has much more gloss than substance. A spokesperson for Hearst refused to disclose any financial information, citing the fact the company is privately-owned.

The mayor's office says Black oversees a staff of some 2,000 employees, but that's just a tiny fraction of the 135,000 at the DOE. Whether or not she's the right choice to balance the DOE's budget is now up to the state education commissioner to decide.

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