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City can keep teachers: Pols

Queens state senators who sit on the Senate Education Committee said while they were not happy with the final budget’s cuts to K-12 schools, the cuts are not so drastic that they will require Mayor Michael Bloomberg to give teachers pink slips.

“It’s not a happy budget for education, let’s put it that way,” Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said.

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his proposed budget in February, he recommended a $1.5 billion cut to public school aid, which raised fears of teachers being laid off and class sizes getting larger. The final state budget restores $200 million in cuts statewide and $50 million to New York City in education, but that has not left even those who approved it feeling satisfied.

“As far as New York City goes, we could have done better,” said Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone).

Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said the state was still getting $7 billion in state aid, but he was concerned the budget still left the state millions of dollars behind in repaying the city for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, which mandates the Empire State allocate a more fair distribution of funds between the city and the rest of the state.

Stavisky said she was glad the budget restored funding for schools for the blind and hard of hearing and some of the cuts to the summer jobs program, but said she believed the money was distributed unfairly between districts.

Avella said he could not predict how the budget will affect Queens, but said he contended there were ways to trim spending without having the cuts get down to the classroom. He said he would still fight to extend the millionaire’s tax to bring additional revenue into the city, a decision supported by United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

“While we wish Albany could have done more, the mayor could have helped add $5 billion to the budget by backing an extension of the millionaire’s tax, but he refused to do so,” Mulgrew said.

Addabbo said he believed there was enough waste in education that the cuts could be absorbed, but said teachers do not need to be laid off and the mayor could use the $3 billion in rollover excess funds to make up the gap.

“I think teachers only get laid off if the mayor wants to do it,” Addabbo said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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