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Recession’s Effects Batter New York School District

The Peekskill, N.Y., public school district is suffering from the deepening recession's ripple effects, which will force administrators to cut student bus services, teachers' positions and arts programs. Special correspondent John Tulenko of Learning Matters reports.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And to an on-the-ground stimulus story geared to the appeals to include new federal money for schools. We have a report on how bad economic times are playing out for one public school district in New York state. It’s from special correspondent John Tulenko of Learning Matters, which produces education stories for the NewsHour.

  • JOHN TULENKO, correspondent:

    Fifty miles north of New York City, on the banks of the Hudson River, is the town of Peekskill, N.Y. It has six public schools and 3,000 students. Judith Johnson is superintendent.

  • JUDITH JOHNSON, superintendent, Peekskill City School District:

    This is a small town. This is high school graduates, primarily. It’s very working-class. The value of properties up here have dropped significantly. This town has no money for its schools.

  • JOHN TULENKO:

    Like a lot of school districts, Peekskill is feeling the effects of the recession. Its troubles began last June, when construction on its new middle school was nearly complete.

  • JUDITH JOHNSON:

    Three-quarters of the way through the building, the economy sours, and the electrician, a key member of the team, files for bankruptcy, walks off the campus, brought the building to just about a halt.

    Here we sit with this beautiful building, with state-of-the-art technology, music rooms, art studios, an incredible auditorium that is professional and can be rented out, that’s all empty.

  • JOHN TULENKO:

    Construction plans were put on hold indefinitely. In the fall, Peekskill’s troubles got worse. Down the river in New York City, Wall Street firms started to fail.

  • GOV. DAVID PATERSON, D-N.Y.:

    The state of our state is perilous.

  • JOHN TULENKO:

    New York’s Governor David Paterson.

  • GOV. DAVID PATERSON:

    Wall Street was hit the hardest. Trillions of dollars of wealth have vanished right before our eyes. No one knows where the extent of this challenge will end.

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