Tweed to Absorb Much of Lost Aid

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Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott told the CIty Council Thursday that the Department of Education was planning for next year without the $250 million dollars in education aid that was withheld by the state after the city failed to reach a deal on a teacher evaluation plan with the teachers union.

This despite a judge's ruling that blocked the state from withholding the aid, and the city from proceeding with cuts, until a lawsuit brought by parents moves forward.

"Explain to me why you want to make the cuts now, that have irreparable harm to our children, with the possibility -- not the possibility -- when more than likely we will win in the future," said City Council member Robert Jackson, who is also a plaintiff on the lawsuit.

Walcott said it would be irresponsible to include those funds in the budget.

"I can't operate based on a 'more than likely,'" he said. "I have to operate based on the reality of the money that we have available to us."

The lost education aid factors into a proposed $19.5 billion operating budget for the city's Department of Education. Although $250 million is a relatively small percentage of the budget, the loss will be felt, Walcott said.

Much of the money has been absorbed by central administration at the D.O.E., he said. At the school level, the loss of funding has led to hiring restrictions in schools, such as not replacing departing teachers or other school staff. Walcott said the loss of state aid could lead to a loss of up to 700 teachers through attrition.

The D.O.E. is still working to determine what the full impact of the cuts will be, he said.

Walcott, who was joined at the hearing by Shael Polakow-Suransky, chief academic officer, and Michael Tragale, chief financial officer, also discussed issues related to state tests, the Common Core learning standards, school-based health centers, college readiness rates and recouping Medicaid expenses.

Walcott warned of the difficulty of the new tests, now aligned with the Common Core, and of the anticipated drop in test scores. He said the tests will establish "an entirely new baseline" for measuring student performance that cannot be compared to past test results.

He also gave a special mention to two Manhattan elementary schools, Central Park East I and Central Park II, which, he said, would be able to open a joint middle school in 2014. The issue garnered some attention when the schools sought space eventually granted to a charter school.