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Cuts To Albany School Teacher And Staff Positions Effective Monday

With a 20 percent reduction in state aid for this school year looming, staffers let go Friday included 51 teachers.
WAMC Composite Image by Dave Lucas
With a 20 percent reduction in state aid for this school year looming, staffers let go Friday included 51 teachers.

More than 200 Albany City School District staffers have lost their jobs due to anticipated school aid reductions.

With a 20 percent reduction in state aid for this school year looming, staffers let go Friday included 51 teachers.

Albany City Schools Superintendent Kaweeda Adams says the district has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

"For a district like ours, a 20 percent reduction in foundation aid would be about $16.5 million dollars. And so if that reduction is applied to all state aid, meaning, foundation aid, categorical building, transportation, etc. that also includes our community schools money, it appears that it would be about $23.2 million in our 2021 budget."

Albany School Board President Anne Savage says Friday was many staffers' last day.

"All of our staff is excellent and they are much, much needed by our students. Those folks were employed because they are needed. And starting today, Monday, we will not have those staff members for our students, much needed, because of our extremely precarious financial situation."

In a statement, The New York State Budget Office says there have been no permanent cuts and only 1 percent of school aid has been temporarily withheld. But Savage says that’s not enough to plan around.

"But what we've seen today is a 20 percent withholding of our payment that we expected in August. That is the experience that we've had. We've also had a formal notification of a 20 percent reduction if the Universal Pre-K fund. So while it's true that that's a very small percentage of our overall state aid for the whole year, most of our state aid is not expected yet. We generally, oh, in August, get a payment that's really from last fiscal year, because remember the school fiscal year is July 1st to June 30th, so we had 20 percent withheld of our August payment, which was the closeout payment for last fiscal year. We haven't received any state aid for this fiscal year, because we're not supposed to receive any state aid for this fiscal year. It doesn't come yet. We do get a payment in September, and we are very relieved to understand that that will be made whole, um that is different than what we were told formally, but we did read in the newspaper that that will be a whole payment, and we are grateful for that."

The Budget Office says the state can’t make any permanent spending reductions until it knows how much aid, if any, it will receive from the federal government.

Savage isn't ruling out restoring positions once that clarity comes.

"We will be watching very very carefully as the governor submits his spending plan to the legislature and the legislature acts, which we understand from their written report, they expect to happen sometime after the end of September, but we don't know exactly when. We hope that will give us more clarity about what our financial future holds, so that we can retain and bring back as many staff members as we possibly can."

Adams says the district will continue to adapt while exploring new and alternative ways of teaching and providing services.

"Where we are in education is, I know that we've used the word 'unprecedented' numerous times. But it is truly unprecedented. And the way in which we go about working together to create the best learning environment for our students and deliver quality instruction with all the support and wraparound services and social-emotional well-being services that we need for our students and our staff, it is important that we work together in the best interests of our students, our families and our employees."

The full State Division of Budget statement:  “There have been no permanent cuts and only 1% of school aid has been temporarily withheld – 0.3% , or $789,000, of the Albany school district budget – and going forward any actions will take district need into account. Until we have clarity on the amount of federal assistance the state will receive, it is premature for the State to make any permanent spending reductions, at which point all options would be considered to limit the impacts of a federal failure to act and offset the State’s $62 billion, four-year revenue loss.” –Freeman Klopott, spokesman, New York State Division of the Budget

The complete breakdown of Albany City School District 222.1 staff reductions:
•    Administrator -- 13.4
•    Classroom teacher -- 51.5
•    Teaching assistant -- 55
•    Social-emotional support staff -- 10.5
•    Maintenance -- 9
•    Hall monitors -- 46
•    Clerical -- 12
•    Non-classroom professional -- 18.7
•    Home school coordinators -- 6

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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