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Principals scramble citywide to balance budgets by Friday's deadline

JUAN ESPINAL Special Correspondent to the AmNews | 7/28/2011, 10:43 a.m.

Principal Kelly McGuire of Lower Manhattan Community Middle School decided to share one of his teachers between his and two other schools just to afford their salary this coming school year at the same time he sees an increase in students.

McGuire's conundrum is one of hundreds around the city, as every principal scrambles to balance their school's budget in time for the deadline. By Friday, every principal has to deliver a budget to the Department of Education or an appeal if they feel they need more money.

This task may become even more trying with the recent approval of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's city budget, which made difficult education cuts.

"The budget we just passed fooled people...education has been devastated," said Council Member Charles Barron, the only member to vote "no" on Bloomberg's budget. "They balanced this budget on the backs of poor people. It's going to affect instruction in the classroom and the quality of education that's already low."

New York City public schools are expecting an increase of over 10,000 students this school year, while an estimated 2,600 teachers will be retiring in accordance with the mayor's budget.

McGuire said that his school will be increasing by 30 students, enough for a new class and presumably a new teacher. Instead, he has to share his teacher with other schools just to afford those he already has and disperse those new students in existing classrooms.

"Any time you go from having 25 to 26 students in a class to 32 in a class, it gets that much more difficult to give the attention they need," explained McGuire.

According to the state, only 15 percent of graduating Black and Latino students in 2009 were prepared for higher education or a career, which meant they scored greater than 65 percent on the Regents exams.

Barron exclaims, "The diploma isn't worth the paper it's printed on if they aren't ready for college or a career."

Last year, 166 schools had to file for an appeal, while only 108 were approved.

McGuire's budget is ready for Friday, but he admits "it was rough and we had to get pretty creative."