Council members gathered in a hearing at City Hall this Monday to introduce a resolution demanding that Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks reverse the budget cuts to schools, now approved by court order, and use remaining stimulus funds to cover the net reduction of $469 million from schools.

Adams and the City Council agreed to the adopted budget early in June that included cuts to schools. The cuts were based on the “flawed” Fair Student Funding (FSF) formula and projected decreases in schools enrollment. Two teachers and two parents resorted to filing a lawsuit to stop the cuts. The lawsuit went back and forth in court, and ended when the city filed an appeal and got an automatic stay. By Aug. 10, an appellate judge ruled that schools could move forward with the 2023 budget cuts. 

On Monday, Aug. 22, in an effort to circumvent the ruling, city council members introduced a resolution to restore the cuts. At the hearing, advocates and city officials, such as Comptroller Brad Lander, testified their support in holding the mayor and chancellor accountable. The resolution is supported by Speaker Adrienne Adams, and several council members like Council member Justin Brannan, Gale Brewer, and Education chair Rita Joseph.

President of the United Federation of Teachers Michael Mulgrew asked straightforwardly where the money for schools was and where it went. Mulgrew said the entire process and the city’s “insistence” on going through with the cuts has been “aggravating” and “troubling.” 

“It’s been well documented what this means to the schools themselves,” said Mulgrew in his testimony. “And the DOE is still trying to tell people it’s not a cut, it’s downsizing, and it’s because they are using the [FSF] formula, which they also admit is not correct.”

Lander testified that the cuts would affect 77% of public schools, increase class sizes, cut arts programs like band, and excess needed guidance counselors and teachers. His office estimates that there’s about $4.4 billion leftover of the stimulus funds unspent and about $600 million that rolled over from last year’s school budget. 

He didn’t shy away from the fiscal reality that the stimulus money will run out, that the FSF needs reform, and that there was an enrollment decline in schools. As an alternative to attempting to save the stimulus money, Lander suggested putting the $800 million made in excess tax revenue this year into the city’s reserves instead. 

“What’s especially painful and puzzling about this is that it’s totally unnecessary,” said Lander. 

Lander confirmed that the federal money can only be spent on buttressing public education and has to be spent by 2025. The “modest” flexibility from Academic Recovery SAM funds isn’t enough, he said. 

Many witnesses noted that there will be an influx of immigrant students in school this fall  because of the arrival of thousands of asylum seekers and their families, which will increase enrollment in schools.

“These budget cuts come at a time when the system must meet the moment to support a thousand refugee newcomers. Right now instead of focusing on these unconscionable budget cuts we should be focused on enrolling asylum seeking children in schools that are well prepared to meet their need and that have the deep expertise and support for students learning English for the first time,” said Andrea Ortiz, senior manager of education policy at New York Immigration Coalition.

A few witnesses advocated for mayoral control of the city’s public school system to end. 

“All this delay and confusion makes it seem as if this is a purposeful set of many different decisions to circumvent democracy and transparency, to not allow parents and the community to have even an eye on what’s happening, and to dismiss their values,” said Aixa Rodriguez, a teacher. 

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 clicking here:

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  1. My Prof. was Ms.Elsa Dinwiddie-Boyd her husband is Prof. Herbert Boyd. I graduated from College of New Rochelle Prof Boyd was my advisor and professor. I would love to know how she is doing. Prof. Owen as well. HALLELUJAH AMEN.

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