Today’s news:

Parental Outcry Over CFE Withholding Grows Louder

Parents are taking to the street to protest the state’s refusal to increase funding to city schools by billions of dollars. On January 30 at 3:30 p.m., demonstrators will gather at the site of the former Magen David Yeshiva, located at Avenue P and Stillwell Avenue, to lambaste the state for failing to comply with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) ruling. They will also demand that Governor George Pataki finally release the money a judge said the “underfunded” city schools deserve – an extra $5.6 billion in operating funds over the next four years and $9.2 billion over the next five years for capital projects. The Magen David site is the perfect location for the rally since it is one of 80-90 projects citywide that may be dropped on April 1. That’s because without the CFE money, the city Department of Education (DOE) has only half of the funding necessary to complete the school construction projects outlined in its $13.1 billion capital plan. Earlier this month, Bay Ridge parents and educators were shocked to learn that the $68 million Magen David project, which they believed was ready to go, was on the chopping block. The news was especially startling considering the DOE already purchased the land where Magen David once sat and the buildings on the site are now being demolished. The plan was to create a school housing grades kindergarten to eight. Several other projects outlined for Brooklyn are in danger of being axed. One of these projects has been in the planning phase for quite some time. “Sunset Park High School has been in the works for years and years and years,” said Carlo Scissura, president of District 20’s Community Education Council (CEC). “That has been put on hold.” With 1,600 seats, the school was expected to alleviate overcrowding at nearby high schools, including Fort Hamilton, James Madison and Midwood. Each of these three schools is at least 60 percent overcapacity, according to DOE data. Plans to create three additional schools in Brooklyn – one at East 107th Street and Avenue J and two others in the Family Court building at 283 Adams Street – are also resting on the CFE funding. This is the second year in a row that the DOE expected the state to provide CFE money for construction projects and the second year in a row that the state failed to do so. Last year, because there was no CFE funding, the city dropped several projects – some of which were meant for District 20 schools – and did not put them back in this year’s capital plan, Scissura said. “There are about a dozen projects that have been cut from District 20,” he said. “It’s very scary how much has been lost.” While many parents have solely blamed the state for the lack of CFE funding for city schools, Scissura said part of the fault lies with the city. Asserting, “It’s not fair” to place all the responsibility on the state, Scissura said that when outlining funding sources for projects in the capital plan, the city should not have factored in CFE funding since the chance of actually getting that money was slim. “I’m outraged at the Department of Education,” he said. The capital plan “is a joke.” He was particularly upset that the Magen David project was proposed years ago but a new school has yet to be built. “The thing that infuriates me, angers me, and really shows a lack of any concrete planning on the part of the state of New York, the city of New York and the Department of Education is that this project was originally introduced about five years ago,” he said. “The project came out of a capital plan from like eight years ago. The school board voted on the site in 2002. It’s an embarrassment that the powers-that-be allowed this site to sit there. It should have been completed by now.” —Reporter Helen Klein contributed to this story.

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