PORT CHESTER, N.Y. The Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District presented the proposed budget for the 2012-13 school year in front of a large crowd at the board of education meeting Thursday evening inside the middle school auditorium. The proposal calls for elimination of the entire early learning program, as well as several teacher positions.
With the implementation of Gov. Andrew Cuomos 2 percent tax levy cap, the district was forced to cut $2.1 million in programs to make up the deficit. The principal cut in the proposed budget reduces the current full-day kindergarten to a half-day program, cutting approximately 25 teachers in the process. As a result, the district will be forced to eliminate the John F. Kennedy Magnet School Early Learning Center (ELC). Kindergarten is not considered a mandatory program in New York State.
While the elimination of full-day kindergarten makes up a significant portion of the deficit, the district was also forced to eliminate aspects of unfunded, state mandated programs resulting in the loss of five more teachers.
Although the school board recognizes the situation is dire, Port Chester Superintendent Edward Kliszus said there is still time to sway Albany through an aggressive letter-writing campaign.
"The budget is not final yet, many things can happen. Advocacy can still work for the next two weeks," Kliszus said. "It's more important now than ever that Albany hears from Port Chester residents."
The district has until April 1 to receive a bump in state aid to help mitigate the cuts. If no relief is received by April, the district can avoid the cuts through a community vote. A budget override requires a 60 percent majority from village voters.
The board was met with defiant opposition to the proposed cuts by members of the public. In particular, a large contingency of parents and teachers from JFK Magnet School spoke about the importance of sustaining full-day kindergarten and maintaining the ELC.
"I fear greatly, early child learning is integral to the success of our students," said Jessica River of the JFK PTA. "I do not feel that our children will be successful with the removal of ELC."
Presentations by the JFK PTA ended with PTA President Terry Taylor presenting the district with 577 letters to Albany from JFK parents.
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