Students at J. Fred Sparke Elementary School in Levittown, for...

Students at J. Fred Sparke Elementary School in Levittown, for kindergarten and first grade (Oct. 18, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile

Long Island's public schools cut an estimated 1,455 jobs before the start of this school year, producing larger classes, especially in poorer districts, according to a survey by a coalition of education groups.

The Long Island Education Coalition, which is pressing for more state school aid, said in a report Thursday that losses among the responding districts included 935 teachers, librarians and other school professionals out of an Islandwide total of about 40,000. Of those, 519 were laid off; the remainder resigned or retired and their positions were eliminated.

The other 520 positions eliminated came among administrators and school support staff.

Of those, a total of 254 were laid off, and the rest resigned or retired.Of the Island's 124 public school districts, 114 replied to the survey. The education coalition, which represents superintendents associations, teacher unions and other groups, assured anonymity to the districts to encourage detailed responses, officials said.

Sponsors described the job reductions as the biggest since the early 1990s when, as now, an economic downturn prompted Albany to reduce aid. Survey results were released Thursday night at regional PTA conferences in Holtsville and Rockville Centre.

Vincent Lyons, a regional representative for the New York State United Teachers union, said job cuts affect not only teachers who are unemployed in a tight labor market, but students stuck in larger classes.

"We're hearing stories of kindergartens with as many as 28 students, and we have career and occupational courses with as many as 36," said Lyons, who co-chairs the coalition.

Some parents are complaining that larger classes make it difficult for students to get individual help.

Yolanda Garrett, a Wyandanch mother of two, told a reporter at a school-board meeting Wednesday that her 8-year-old daughter struggles in a third-grade class of 34 students. District officials agree some classes are too large, adding that they intend to restore a few teacher positions to relieve pressures.

"She needs help with math, and she can't get it," Garrett said of her daughter.

The education coalition's survey was conducted from June through September and is the most comprehensive ever attempted by the regional group. The job-loss figures reflect reductions imposed in June, a month after residents across Long Island voted on district budgets.

The survey's job-loss totals are lower than estimates of 2,150 potential job reductions compiled by Newsday before the school budget votes. Analysts noted districts often revise numbers late in the school year after they negotiate cost-saving concessions with employee unions.

The latest job reductions stem largely from state-aid cuts, which amount to about 9 percent of assistance to the Island's districts and about 8 percent statewide this school year.

Some relief could come in the next school year. State lawmakers have tentatively approved a 4 percent state-aid increase for 2012-13, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo indicated to reporters during a brief meeting last week he expected to meet that commitment.

Regional school leaders say extra aid would be welcome, especially in poorer districts that are most dependent on state assistance. Those leaders add, however, that money still will be tight next year because school systems for the first time face a state-imposed 2 percent cap on spending increases.

The survey said state aid on average represents 21 percent of the Island's school spending, with 71 percent coming from local property taxes.

"You want to know why there's a property-tax revolt out here, that's why," said Gary Bixhorn, chief operating officer at Eastern Suffolk BOCES, who coordinated the survey.

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