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Addabbo spending questioned

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An education advocacy group and an organization created from the remnants of what was once ACORN in New York protested in front of state Sen. Joseph Addabbo’s (D-Howard Beach) office in Howard Beach last week, claiming the senator voted to cut $500 million in city education funding.

But Addabbo’s staff accused the groups of obscuring the facts and said the protest was premature.

The groups — the Alliance for Quality Education and New York Communities for Change, which was formed after ACORN disbanded in New York — said Addabbo was one of 15 senators who sent a letter to Gov. David Paterson that said he “cannot, in good conscience, vote for a final budget that includes any cuts to education.”

They said days later he voted to cut $500 million from city schools.

“The good senator went against his own word,” said Julia Boyer, a member of New York Communities for Change. “We’re here to tell Sen. Addabbo that we don’t like it and we’re not gonna take it no more. Enough is enough.”

About two dozen protesters, including one banging on a tambourine and another hitting a cowbell, chanted, “You promised not to cut our schools, then you went and changed the rules” and, “No school cuts.”

They also chanted, “Where’s Addabbo?”

Pat McCabe, Addabbo’s chief of staff, responded, “He’s in Albany fighting for education.”

A reporter could not find a protester who lived in Addabbo’s district.

McCabe met with the protesters and told them Addabbo gives between $1.5 million and $2 million in funding to schools in his district and said the groups’ claims that the senator voted to cut education is inaccurate.

The state is facing a $9.2 billion budget deficit and Paterson has proposed a $1.4 billion cut to education.

Addabbo spokeswoman Judy Close noted the Senate resolution calls for partial restorations to Paterson’s education budget.

“That’s a far cry from the $1.4 billion,” she said of the Senate vote to cut $500 million from education.

McCabe noted the vote the groups are pointing to was not a bill, but a resolution that McCabe said is “a starting point. It’s not going to be the final budget.”

Of the groups’ claims, Close said, “They’re wrong.”

“The resolution is just the starting point of [the Senate’s] negotiation process on that aspect of the budget. It was just the opening volley back and forth.”

The Senate resolution also voted to restore $900 million of Paterson’s education cuts.

The chamber and the state Assembly are currently in budget negotiations.

Close acknowledged that because of the economy, the state is going to have to trim education spending to some degree.

“It’s a question of how little they can cut so that people don’t really get affected throughout the state,” she said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 5:54 pm, October 10, 2011
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