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Schools Chancellor Criticizes Education Cuts In State Budget

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Schools Chancellor Cathie Black testified Tuesday before state lawmakers in Albany about proposed cuts to school aid, criticized the governor's proposed cuts and said the city deserves its fair share of the state educational budget.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has floated a 7.8 percent cut to state education.

Black's comments before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee echoed those of the mayor, who also stressed that the city deserves its fair share of the state budget.

"We should have been at 100 percent funding in 2013-14, now that’s been pushed out to 2016-17, so we’re not seeing it and we’re going to fight that very aggressively," said Black.

The chancellor also said that the city needs to be released from state mandates like pension reform and a policy that makes the shortest-serving teachers in a school get fired first.

This, as sources tell NY1 that the city's Department of Education is working on a proposal that would base teachers' layoffs on merit, alleviating concerns that schools may try and fire more expensive teachers to cut costs.

"We view this as an issue as far as how we provide the best teachers for the schools during a very difficult period of time around layoffs," said Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott.

Black also warned that if city schools receives less money for capital projects, then it will be harder for them to combat overcrowding classrooms.

Her criticism also extended to the state for failing to enforce the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling, which she said would give New York City its fair share of the budget, or as she claimed, roughly $2 billion more than it currently receives.

"We started out with a promise, you heard one of the senators or assemblymen say it's a broken promise," said Black. "So year after year, we started out at 37 percent, it was supposed to go up to 53 percent, we're back to 37 percent. We haven't seen it.

The chancellor's testimony was interrupted by a line of people carrying signs and wearing shirts that read, "Protect Kids, Not Millionaires." As they moved down the auditorium steps, the protesters did not acknowledge that Black and several state lawmakers agreed with many of their complaints.

Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy told the lawmakers Tuesday that even the best public schools have waste and inefficiencies that should be cut before resorting to teacher layoffs. However, he did say freezing wage increases for teachers should be an option.

"Just putting more money into the system does not work," said Duffy. "The governor has not backed off of the state’s pledge, he just wants to make sure that the money is spent smarter and based on performance."

Duffy rejected the idea that some school districts could not find waste, and said the governor's office could send a team to help districts find potential cuts.

Cuomo echoed those sentiments on the radio Tuesday morning.

"There is a difference between supporting the bureaucracy of education and funding and enhancing performance for the students,” said Cuomo on Fred Dicker’s radio show WGDJ-AM. “They're not always synonymous."

In addition to the schools chancellor, Archbishop Timothy Dolan also testified before state lawmakers Tuesday.

He asked for $270 million in state funding that he says was withheld from the Catholic school system because of an error by the State Education Department dating back to the 2002-03 school year.

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