Thursday, July 24, 2008

Quinn comes to Bronx to celebrate Ed $$$

by John DeSio
Riverdale Review, 07/24/2008

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is happy to alert The Bronx that she fought back against Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s planned education cuts—and won.

Quinn discussed the budget battle Tuesday morning during a media breakfast, where she was joined by Council Members G. Oliver Koppell and Joel Rivera. Quinn noted that overall Bronx schools actually increased their funding in this budget, due to the Council’s efforts. A list provided by the speaker’s office made it clear that no school would see its budget decline next year.

“The goal of the budget was really to make sure no public school had less dollars in September than they did in June, when the schools closed,” said Quinn.

Locally, P.S. 7, P.S. 24, P.S. 81, the Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy and the Bronx High School of Science will all see a net change in their budget of $0. One local school, M.S./H.S. 368/The In-Tech Academy, saw a small budget increase of $412.

Koppell said he was also happy to see that schools not only in his district but across the Borough were spared the budget axe. He noted that he had heard from numerous parents, principals and educators who were concerned about the cuts and the immediate and long-term impact schools would face because of them.

The principals seemed really genuinely concerned that they would have to cut back on various programs and services,” said Koppell, who added that he has been applauded by local principals since the funding was restored.

Though this year’s funding is safe, other problems do loom on the horizon for many schools, especially those in middle-class neighborhoods. For starters, the proposed “Fair Student Funding” program, which would shift school budget allocations based on poverty data, would drain funding from schools in neighborhoods like Riverdale.

Quinn said such potential problems would have to be dealt with as they happened. “I can’t tell you what’s going to happen next year until we get there,” said Quinn.

The speaker also discussed the future of mayoral control of city public schools, calling for a continuation of the current system with some modifications. Under Quinn’s plan mayoral control would be replaced with municipal control, and control of city schools would be removed from the hands of the state Legislature and given to the City Council.

Such a plan would make the Council and the mayor equal partners and would place the schools under more localized control.

“There’ll always be a legislature. That legislature should be the New York City Council,” said Quinn. “It should be the guy from Riverdale, not the guy from Pitcher Hill, deciding how money gets set up.”

In further discussion about the City’s funding formula for schools, which gives larger funding to schools based on poverty and the number of “English language learners” attending the school, Quinn said it was a difficult rope to walk because some students do need more help than others to succeed.

“Sometimes extra learning means you need extra resources to help that child,” said Quinn. That said, she did state the middle class schools should by no means be penalized in the budget for performing well and that she would join the City Council in fighting to hold those budgets harmless.

“Yes, some kids need more than others, but every child needs a fair amount of resources,” said Quinn. “Middle class schools shouldn’t be penalized for historically doing well.”

Quinn closed the meeting by noting that Bronx and city schools do face myriad challenges but that the City Council’s budget efforts will, at the very least, keep public schools “running in place.”

“We legitimately have a whole bunch of challenges,” said Quinn. “That said, this is a big deal. If the schools in The Bronx had $30 million less, things would be worse.”