Outrage at school budget hearing

May 27, 2008 6:11:49 PM PDT
There was outrage and protest Tuesday during a school budget hearing in Manhattan.Dozens of parents who showed up at the hearing had to be escorted out after they began protesting while schools Chancellor Joel Klein was speaking.

Parents are angry because they say Albany has kept its end of the bargain by helping out city schools, even though Albany is swimming in red ink, facing a $4.5 billion deficit. But they claim Mayor Bloomberg has backtracked on his promises, even though City Hall now has a surplus.

The mood was tense from the very beginning. It was a packed chamber, with parents holding signs and accusing the mayor of breaking a promise. The chancellor was on the hot seat for three and a half hours.

"I do think the mayor has to be fiscally responsible for the city," Klein said.

That means Mayor Bloomberg has cut the schools' money, reduced what was promised by $400 million.

"Being ultra-conservative is not being fiscally responsible to the children of New York City, let me just say that," City Councilman Robert Jackson said.

From that point the crowd let it rip.

Guards cleared the balcony, but parents kept chanting, refusing to keep quiet, all the way down City Hall's grand staircase and out on the porch.

"Chancellor Klein, don't cut a dime!" they chanted.

"The children are our future, and they need whatever little bit of money there is," parent Maria Irizarry said. "It should be applied to the children."

But back inside, Klein kept going. He told the Council that in these rough times, everyone, even schools, faces a cut.

"I wish ours were not reduced, don't get me wrong," he said. "I wish we had more dollars."

Klein has said that if Albany doesn't help out more, then some of the best schools in the city will face deep budget cuts. The mayor and the City Council will be working over the next few weeks to hammer out a deal. The deadline is July 1.