1st hearing held on school budget cuts

June 5, 2008 9:06:11 PM PDT
Lots of angry parents and teachers gave New York City school officials an earful Thursday night. They are furious over Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to cut the school budget by nearly half a billion dollars. The first of a handful of public hearings, one in each borough, was held Thursday.

Eyewitness News reporter Jeff Pegues has the story from Staten Island.

For the Department of Education officials sitting on stage, it was a tough crowd.

About a hundred concerned parents, community leaders and even children were on hand, angered by the budget cuts proposed by Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

"You say we can grow up to be whatever we want, but how can we do that when you cut away our education?" one student asked.

The city Department of Education, with the mayor's stamp of approval, has proposed cutting the budgets of some city schools next year by as much as 6 percent. Klein is blaming the deep cuts on rules that restrict how state education money is used.

But Kline wasn't at the hearing, and that didn't sit well with a lot of the people, including Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

"I just want to know which hearing will the chancellor be at, and that will be the hearing," she said.

The original purpose of this meeting was to talk about Contracts for Excellence money, which is money from the state. However, DOE officials on the panel got an earful from parents not about that, but about city budget cuts.

"I'm very concerned for my son entering fourth grade, classroom size could go up to 38 kids per room," parent Julie Nygren said. "I just don't see kids getting what they need.''

But DOE officials point out that the mayor has increased spending on New York City public schools by $4.6 billion since he took office in 2002.

They also say that the claim that Bloomberg has broken a promise to fund education is ludicrous.

This was the first of the five public hearings to be held in the coming weeks.