After a group of teachers and parents jointly filed a lawsuit against the city over education budget cuts in June, a judge ordered the Department of Education (DOE) to “vacate” the city’s education budget. To which Mayor Eric Adams immediately appealed, ending a brief stalemate. 

The budget process was on hold this week because of the city’s court appeal, but as of Wednesday, Aug. 10, an appellate judge ruled that schools could move forward with the 2023 budget cuts. They were supposed to be back in court at the end of August.

“We’re urging the city, the mayor, and city council to immediately work on a budget modification to restore funding to public schools to ensure that public education is adequately and effectively funded,” said Education Law Attorney for Advocates for Justice Laura D. Barbieri on Tuesday.

When Adams and the City Council agreed to the adopted budget early in June there was an immediate backlash over cuts to schools. The cuts were based on the Fair Student Funding formula and projected decreases in schools enrollment. Two teachers and two parents resorted to filing a lawsuit to stop the cuts. The lawsuit states under the law that a mandated process, called Panel for Educational Policy, was violated when Schools Chancellor David Banks issued a vague “Emergency Declaration” on May 31 to adopt the budget without any board vote. The petitioners said that there was no real emergency though.

Last Thursday on Aug. 4, a public hearing was held. Barbieri said it was over an hour of “exciting” argument by the city and petitioners. She said that the court was ultimately swayed to listen to the teachers and parents about the city violating the law.

By Friday, Aug. 5, the judge ruled to vacate, or get rid of, the school budget for fiscal year 2023, said Spectrum News. It essentially asks for the City Council to revote on the budget while following the rules. The city then filed an appeal and got an “automatic stay” meaning that the budget cuts are at an impasse since the city is a political subdivision of the state. 

Barbieri said that politically the mayor is “suffering” because of his actions surrounding the education cuts.

Just before the hearing Adams, the DOE, and Banks announced $100 million in federal stimulus as “additional flexibility of existing funding for schools for the upcoming school year” with $50 million in school budget appeals being sent to schools, a reallocation of existing funds.

“As two former New York City public school students ourselves, Chancellor Banks and I know there is nothing more important than providing the children in our public schools the resources they need to learn, grow, and thrive. The truth is that the city is facing a 120,000 drop in student enrollment, which had clear budget implications since February when the preliminary budget was released,” said Adams in a statement.

“We are committed to providing every available resource to our students. Still, we also must acknowledge the changing conditions that so many are unwilling to recognize and, just as importantly, that there is no hidden pool of city money or additional federal stimulus funds, as has been previously inaccurately reported, that we can tap,” continued Adams. 

In response to the flexibility of funding, Speaker Adrienne Adams, Councilmember Justin Brannan, and Education Committee Chair Rita Joseph slammed the DOE for “pulling the wool over the public’s eyes” in a joint statement. They said that the DOE had avoided transparency and accountability during the city budget process.

After the judge’s ruling, Speaker Adams and Mayor Adams’ office got into heated exchanges over the DOE budget. 

Speaker Adams blamed the DOE for a lack of transparency and cutting more from schools than they were letting on. She said the City Council is considering legal action as well to ensure that cuts are restored. 

“Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks are risking the health of our school system and students, and they must resolve this issue immediately,” said Speaker Adams in a statement. “The Council and school stakeholders have been seeking such a resolution for weeks without a constructive partner at DOE. It is time for DOE to stop the chaos and confusion that its actions have created.”

Adams’ Press Secretary Fabien Levy fired back at the City Council about the “continued false attacks” on the budget process and the funds. He said the funding has been clear for months and that the City Council knew what they were voting for.

“The city charter is clear: The mayor puts forward a budget, and the City Council votes on it—that is one of its most important duties. Both sides did their job, except now the Council refuses to stand by its vote and is, instead, repeatedly issuing misleading and irresponsible statements,” said Levy in a statement.

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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