By Michèle De Meglio
The Mark Twain School for the Gifted and Talented is staying as is – for now.
After rumors spread that the school would lose funding for busing and its specialized magnet programs, the city Department of Education (DOE) tried to calm parents' fears.
The DOE says the school's current students will continue to be bused to the school and the funding provided for magnet programs will remain the same.
However, the DOE did not promise that this will be the case forever.
With the economy in a downturn and the city ready to cut $324 million from the DOE's budget for the next school year, there's always the possibility that funding for busing and magnet programs could be in jeopardy in the future.
“The DOE is cutting millions of dollars,” said Ronald Stewart, president of the Community Education Council (CEC) for District 21, which includes Mark Twain. “Everything will remain as is but will it remain as is throughout the next coming years? We don't know.”
“We know that is going to affect busing,” he continued. And possibly, “a lot of the [specialized] programs that they have are going to diminish.”
Mark Twain, located at 2401 Neptune Avenue, receives state funding to support its magnet programs. That money is sent to the city, which then provides the cash to the school.
“Mark Twain is still a gifted and talented school,” explained DOE spokesperson Andrew Jacob. “Right now, we don't have any plans to change that funding – the state magnet funding.”
“They're still trying to figure out the busing situation and find the extra money for the magnet program,” said City Councilmember Domenic Recchia. “There are budget cuts all over the city but I believe that we will be able to get most of the money.”
As of now, the DOE says it will continue to provide transportation for Mark Twain students via yellow school buses.
“We haven't decided to change the busing policy at all. It's something that we're looking at. We haven't made the decision yet,” Jacob said.
But Jacob noted that students in junior high school are generally offered MetroCards and not busing.
“At other schools in the city, when students get up to that level, there's no busing,” he said.
Stewart wouldn't be upset if students were no longer bused to Mark Twain.
“I don't see how they can keep the busing because what we feel is unfair is that in the junior high schools in the other parts of the district, only the sixth grade gets busing. The seventh and eighth grades have to take public transportation,” Stewart said. “We feel that that's unfair and we don't see how Mark Twain is not going to be affected by the budget cuts.”