Updated 03/17/2011 07:46 PM
School Cuts Loom Large Over Five-Way Albany Budget Meeting
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After Governor Andrew Cuomo and four legislative leaders met behind closed doors in Albany Thursday to discuss the state budget, there remain unquestioned answers over whether some education funding will be restored.
In their private meeting, Cuomo, State Senate leaders Dean Skelos and John Sampson and State Assembly leaders Sheldon Silver and Brian Kolb discussed topics ranging from Medicaid reform to prison closures, but funding cuts to schools remain one of the largest points of contention in the budget process.
The governor proposed $1.5 billion in cuts to state education funding, and city schools may lose up to $580 million in state aid.
School districts and advocacy groups have warned that cuts will lead to fewer programs and teacher layoffs.
Both the State Senate and Assembly have proposed restoring between $260 million to $467 million to schools, but the governor said he will only negotiate for much smaller budget restorations.
"This state government is going to take a 10 percent reduction. Ten percent reduction, and we're asking the schools to take a 2.7 percent cut," said Cuomo. "'Well they're gonna hurt the children.' Manage the school system, reduce the waste, the fraud, the abuse. 'Well, we don't have any.' I don't believe it."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Cathie Black have been among the most vocal, saying the proposed cuts contributed to their decision to eliminate 6,000 city teaching jobs.
When asked about the controversial "last in, first out" policy for teacher layoffs, the governor pledged to work toward an agreement with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and teachers' unions.
While the governor’s office says Cuomo wasn’t necessarily referring to Mayor Bloomberg’s warnings, the state budget director has repeatedly said the city has reserves it could tap into.
“Find an efficiency like every other family in this state has had to find an efficiency, like every other business in this state has had to find an efficiency," Cuomo said.
On Thursday, the Cuomo Administration again told the city to stop crying wolf after city officials told participants in its Advantage Rental Program that $90 million worth of state and federal funding cuts are forcing them to halt the service, which provides rental assistance to 20,000 families moving out of emergency shelters.
“We waited until the last possible minute to this because we were hopeful that the governor and legislative leaders would see to it to fund the program," said New York City Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond.
In a statement, the governor’s spokesman, Josh Vlasto, argued the city has the money to support the program if it chooses to, saying, "New York City seems intent on manufacturing a crisis and endangering thousands of New Yorkers to benefit its own economic and political interest."
"The governor's office is creating the crisis. This is totally unnecessary," countered Diamond. "The majority of the funding for Advantage comes from state and federal sources. It does not come from the city."
The rent subsidy would end on April 1, the same day the budget is due.