Last year principals saved $80.5 million for future use through a rollover program officially called the Deferred Program Planning Initiative. The rainy day funds were created to help schools weather a series of tough spending cuts.
But this month the Department of Education announced it would retake 50 percent of the savings from schools who choose to participate in the program before a March 18 deadline. (Principals who opt out of the program have until June to spend this years budget).
Outraged parents, principals and elected officials protested with letters to the city and several rallies in front of P.S./I.S. 128 in Middle Village, among other places.
After a meeting with Mayor Michael Bloomberg March 7, Schools Chancellor Cathie Black announced the city would only reclaim 30 percent of schools' savings from this year's budget, and allow the rest to carry over into Fiscal Year 2012.
Black said the change- which is backed by the mayor- came in response to feedback from principals searching for “prudent, long-term budget decisions.”
“We've crafted a solution to let them do that,” she added.
Critics of the plan argued it wasn't enough.
“I still think that decision is unacceptable,” said Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the Queens representative on the Panel for Education Policy. “One hundred percent of that money should be returned.”
In Middle Village parents argued that they need all of the funds saved by Principal John Lavelle to help pay for P.S./I.S.'s expansion to a K-8 school.
“This money has been set aside for our kids,” Suzana Liem, a mother of two at the school, said at a protest rally. Taking any of it away will “significantly effect their education.”
“To take back funding [is] more than robbery,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley said. “This is about doing what is right for our schools and what is right for our students.”