Nightmare: Yonkers School District In Dire Financial Straits

You Name It, The Students Don't Have It As $41 Million More Cut From Budget

YONKERS (CBSNewYork) — The budget knife draws blood.

A local school system is ordered to find another $41 million in cuts — that’s 8 percent — from an already lean budget. And the results are not pretty, reports CBS 2’s Lou Young.

The ax has already fallen, but the pain is just beginning to set in. It will include crowded hallways and classrooms, and students with individual horror stories.

“On the first day of school for my Spanish class there were over 52 students,” ninth grader Fatima Alibba said.

“In the beginning of the year I had a business management class and they cancelled it because there wasn’t enough money in the budget,” 12th grader Ayana Nedd said.

“Half these textbooks aren’t even full textbooks, like there are some that are only two-thirds of a textbook. There are no covers, no backs to some of them,” added ninth grader Ayla Palancio, who added when asked if she feels neglected, “Yes. It’s unbelievable.”

There are libraries without librarians and teachers with no budget for classroom supplies.

“I have to get it ourselves. Sometimes I buy it myself, sometimes I fundraise,” art teacher Denise Cochoian said.

Young went to Yonkers Middle High School on Wednesday. There, classrooms are crowded, maintenance is deferred and more than 20 teachers and staff members have been laid off, leaving behind a vacuum the survivors are struggling to fill.

Want a guidance counselor? Get in line.

Administrator Natalie Davy told Young that the ratio of students to counselors is an unbelievable 900 to 1.

It’s a disaster for college-bound students hoping for a meaningful recommendation letter.

“They need to write them for every single student and I feel like they don’t have the time,” 12th grader Michaela Conte said.

When asked to be realistic about what kind of recommendation letter she can you write for the students, guidance counselor Roselyn Jones said, “It’s gonna be, it might have to be that cookie cutter.”

Yonkers has also slashed its social workers and psychologists working among the high-poverty student body. The district is stretched beyond paper-thin.

“Currently we have approximately one counselor working for every 1,300 students,” administrator Donna Murtage said.

“I’ve been in two separate situations already this school year when I’ve had to be pulled from one building to assess a suicidal prevention assessment at another building,” social worker Nancy Medina-Hernandez said.

Most athletics are gone; the band uniforms are in storage, and the students are beginning to wish they were somewhere else.

“If was a freshman, I would find a private school,” 12th grader Jonah Abue said.

For most here that is simply not an option.

Yonkers is one of only five school districts in New York State completely dependent on city and state government for finances. It has no independent taxing authority.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

More from Lou Young
  • Linda L.

    Yonkers is one of the six public school districts that depend ONLY on government funds and state funds. There is no school tax for property owners. I saw this in an article relating to this video showing the dire finances in Yonkers.They need to revise the tax base and get these kids the education they deserve. Perhaps they could divide the school system into smaller school districts. Yonkers is too big of a district to have no school taxes. I also wonder why we always have plenty of money for war and not enough for education. I am an educator in Ossining.

  • Help Yonkers

    The school system needs help and support from the community. Until that happens, the politicians who run Yonkers and our governor who hates public education will do nothing. This is also a race and class issue. The majority of Yonkers families are very poor and unable to advocate for themselves. Where is the NAACP? Where is Michael Sussman?

  • Joseph

    Mr. Young, your story is informative, but it’s like looking at the blood after someone has been stabbed instead of looking for the weapon and the assailant that carried out the assault. The assailants are wearing suits and ties. They control the Budget and thumb their nose at the NYS Comptroller, the citizens and of course the students. They hand out patronage jobs to buy silence while their highly unethical practices continue unabated. The people of Yonkers are either deathly afraid of these ”suits” or owned by them and therefore the problems continue. If you want to speak to someone unafraid of the ”suits” and provide evidence of the malfeasance that is destroying the lives of the children in Yonkers, and the politicians unwilling to do anything about it, reach out to me.

  • Dan P.

    This is an absolute outrage. In a country which is already trailing the world in education, and which needs said education to remain competitive, we’re making our kids suffer because our priorities are skewed?! Give me a break! There are prisoners who receive better funding than the schools are getting.

    Politics has no place in this discussion. If one were to blame this on Democrats or Republicans, then I have cause to believe I am indeed speaking to someone who is uneducated themselves. We are speaking to decisions made by human beings, our neighbors! Playing the political blame game will solve nothing. Coming together as a community to make a stand for the future of this country is what will make a difference.

  • Nas

    i am a graduate from the yonkers public school system. i know what its like to want to succeed. I have also seen a decline in the education system from every aspect. The budget needs to be revamped. there are way too many places where spending needs to be cut. Government offices and officials need to look within their own for cuts and leave the 3 most important sectors ALONE… those include EDUCATION, POLICE and FIRE. Stop cutting the future and safety of our communities. We could all use a few less government officials, but we CANNOT AFFORD to lose ONE MORE TEACHER, TEACHER’S AIDE, POLICE OFFICER OR FIRE FIGHTER. Stop and think about what you are doing to OUR community!!!! Our children are the future and if you keep treating them like second hand clothing, they will become adults with even worse social issues. We NEED A VOICE that WILL BE LISTENED TO!!!!!

  • Mr. Warren

    I live around the corner from Yonkers Middle High and I’m very concerned because it is concerned to be one of the, if not, the best high school in Yonkers! We have the highest property tax in the NATION and some of the worst schools conditions. I’m beginning to think that privatizing our local schools may be the way to go. Let’s sell a few of those multi-million dollar fighter planes, tanks, and destroyers and give the money to educating our children.

  • Eric Schoen

    Donna those numbers are mindboggling!

  • Allchild LeftBehind

    all of the money goes to the union, it doesn’t matter how many hundreds of millions are thrown at the school system, the unions, in bed with obama and the dems, will steal every cent for their greedy selves before a single new book is purchased. want new textbook? you have a better shot at getting one in south africa, india, or china than in brooklyn.

    • Joseph

      While the Unions are nothing more than part of a partisan politcal machine and need to be thoroughly investigated, the problem in Yonkers is pure and simple corruption and patronage. The Yonkers Board of Education ”got away” with spending untold sums of your money to NOT Open it’s books to the NYS Comptroller. Of course that was while Governor Paterson was in office and unfortunately he was in a compromised position of authority due to his predecessor and the fact that he was the first one to confront the budget woes in our state. In this instance Focus on Yonkers City government. Call the outstanding NYS Westchester County NYS assistant Attorney General Wanda Perez Maldonado. As a matter of fact get everyone you know to call her office and have the YBOE and Yonkers City government investigated. That is the solution.

      • A.Morr

        What Joseph said. People tend to over simplify the problem in immediately casting blame on teacher’s salaries. The real issue is how YO tax dollars are spent and how the budget is managed. Much of the money which should go to the schools instead are distributed to other pet projects in YO. The next mayor elected needs to go after the Board of Ed, not the teachers (I’m talking to you Mr. Murtagh!).

  • D. Young

    So sorry, but the cuts are needed; and, for the excused about poverty and low costs…that’s an excused….Kids having kids is the problem ….

  • Kerrie Butler

    This is a DISGRACE !!!!!!!!!!!! What happened to the $$$$$$$ from the racetrack ?

  • Bullett

    It sounds like we are failing the future of America. Why? I think those with 6+ digit saleries need a pay cut in order to provide the proper funding and education to our students.

  • Dr. Donna Martuge

    One counselor for every 3200 students.

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