Mayor Eric Adams and City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams came to an agreement on a $101 billion dollar city budget for the fiscal year of 2023. The budget highlights many community investments, however $215 million in cuts to education have deeply aggravated advocates and a handful of city councilmembers.

“With upstream investments to promote public safety, give young people real opportunity, support our human and legal services providers, offer relief for working families, improve our public spaces, boost affordable housing, combat food insecurity, and so much more,” said Adams after the city council voted to pass the budget on Monday. “This budget promotes an equitable recovery for New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs.” 

The budget prioritizes youth programs, expansion of housing access programs, a property tax rebate for small homeowners, restoration of parks and sanitation cuts, and public safety programs. The city budget promised “curbs” to the over $11 billion NYPD budget while delivering on transparency and accountability for jails and other areas of policing. The NYPD budget is still the largest it’s been, even though it was not expanded and new corrections officers for Rikers Island were not hired.  

Adams also drilled down on adding $8.3 billion to the city’s reserves in what’s been consistently referred to as his ‘austerity budget.’ 

Inshirah Duwors is a parent of three, a teacher, and a NYC Coalition for Educational Justice Leader. She taught in person through June in 2020 and then made the abrupt jump to virtual. She said it was truly an “unimaginable” experience for teachers, which got even worse in 2021 with hybrid, full time virtual, and in person classes resuming. Duwors began her advocacy work shortly after against the unfair conditions. She focused on educational equity and culturally responsive education. She also took some time off from working in the public school sphere to homeschool her own children during the pandemic. 

“I have never come to understand why education is political when this is what children do. They go to school by law,” said Duwors. “We expect so much out of teachers and students and then don’t give them the funding that they need to have the basics.”

Duwors said other than the allocations for child care assistance to children who are undocumented, the cuts to K- 12 grades “make no sense” when there is still billions of dollars available, just in the reserves. She absolutely disagrees with mayoral control of the education system and is disappointed with Schools Chancellor David Banks “taking money away from children” as an educator himself.

Natasha Capers is director of the Coalition for Educational Justice and a mother of two high school students. She said the cuts to the schools budget are not justified, especially when the enrollment numbers used for the city budget are uncertain “projections.” She said a reduction in resources and teachers in schools at this time in the pandemic is painful. In one of her children’s schools, a small Career and Technical Education cooking school, she said hundreds of thousands of dollars will be lost resulting in possible cuts to their paid internship programs and work with five-star Michelin chefs.

“We’re balancing our city budget on the backs of children,” said Capers. “Black and Brown children. Yet the NYPD budget continues to skyrocket but children have to do more with less.”

Speaker Adams, along with City Councilemembers Rita Joseph and Gale Brewer, released a statement on school budgets on Monday as well. They explained that there had been “significant changes due to lost federal funding and declining enrollment in public schools,” but students were still the top priority as the city went back to its “existing school budget formula that it had suspended because of these pandemic-related federal funds.” The school’s student population declined by 120,000 students.

“While schools with increased enrollment received proposed school budgets with funding increases due to the formula, other schools received lower proposed budgets without the stop-gap of federal funding that could lead to the loss of important services. Our focus must be on equity, ensuring schools and students who have historically been underserved are prioritized,” they said in the joint statement.

They promised to address the issue of lost federal funding by putting millions more into funding education than last year, working with local electeds to understand what’s happening in schools, holding a joint oversight hearing to figure out how to fill certain gaps of lost funding, and lastly, pushing the Department of Education to prioritize funding within its current budget to meet the specific needs of individual schools.

Six city council members voted against the city budget including Councilmembers Charles Barron, Alexa Aviles, Chi Osse, and Sandy Nurse, reported the Brooklyn Paper. Councilmember Shahana Hanif voted yes to the budget, but later said publicly how dissatisfied she was with cuts and attended an education funding rally at MS 839.

“Last night, I voted “yes” on the FY23 budget. I did so with a full understanding of its shortcomings, and of the important investments my progressive colleagues and I have won. I am deeply saddened by these education cuts, but our fight for a better city isn’t over,” said Hanif.

“Let me be clear, the primary responsibility of these budget cuts lies at the feet of the mayor. His total and absolute authority over the education system is being wielded to harm our community. Students will lose essential programs because of these callous cuts,” continued Hanif. 

Additionally, criminal justice groups such as Communities United for Police Reform, said that their calls for “deep investments in community safety solutions went ignored.”

“This year, the NYPD’s budget will continue to be an oversized portion of the city’s budget, which will result in more police flooding our neighborhoods and the continuation of failed, abusive policing tactics,” said CPR spokesperson Darian X. “While the council pats themselves on the back for merely restoring already insufficient community investments, the already bloated NYPD was given its largest budget ever. We demand deep cuts in the NYPD budget because we know that police do not prevent violence, they don’t keep us safe. We needed vision and bold investments, and instead, we are getting more of the same: criminalization and over-policing.”

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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