YONKERS, N.Y. -- The New York State Senate Majority Coalition budget resolution Friday to continue exploring mayoral control of the Yonkers Public School System has state and local officials in an uproar.
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano introduced the idea of mayoral control of the school district in January after former superintendent Bernard Pierorazio announced a major deficit along with his retirement.
According to the district, the estimated deficits of $45.5 million over the past two years, along with the anticipated budget gap for the 2014-15 school year of $73.5 million, add up to a staggering $119 million potential budgetary shortfall.
However, a number of Democrat public officials, along with the Yonkers Federation of Teachers (YFT), responded in dismay to what they interpret to be Spano's lack of consultation of community stakeholders in favor of "backroom politics."
"As the two senators who represent the City of Yonkers, we were not consulted and were surprised that the Majority Coalition advanced mayoral control without giving the community, parents and stakeholders an opportunity to be part of the process," Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, and Sen. George Latimer, D-Rye, said in a statement.
The YFT released a statement Friday, saying the State Senate Majority Coalition, made up of Republicans and Independent Democrats, has betrayed the children of Yonkers.
"The many PTA and Town Hall meetings held by our representatives, attended by our parents, our teachers and our community members, repeatedly sent a clear message of 'leave politics out of our schools,' " President Pat Puleo stated. "Every school district in Westchester has an elected Board of Education. Why doesn't Yonkers?"
Spano responded to the outcry on his Facebook page Friday afternoon, demanding any dissidents put alternative plans on the table immediately.
"The students of Yonkers can't afford more talk, they need action," he stated. "Taxpayers simply cannot be expected to fund a half a billion dollar school system without oversight. ... The status quo is what has put the City of Yonkers and our children in peril, and we cannot allow for this to happen again. It’s time for legislative leaders to embrace real reform."
Members of the Yonkers Democratic Caucus additionally called for increased transparency.
Councilman Christopher Johnson stated: "Backroom dealing is not how government should operate. Secretive negotiations that do not include community stakeholders are the reason the public is losing trust."