A super majority of members of the New York City Council called for Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David C. Banks to restore individual school budgets by using the more than $700 million in newly-discovered unspent federal stimulus funds.
In a July 12 letter signed by 41 of the Council’s 51 members, councilmembers demanded immediate action from the NYC Department of Education (DOE) to restore public school budgets that were previously slashed in the City’s Executive Budget by $200 million.
The budgets must be restored within the month of July, before schools make decisions regarding teacher-hiring that would separate teachers from their current schools for the upcoming school year.
In the letter, councilmembers express their opposition and disappointment “with how the Department of Education is administering individual school budgets, [pointing to] DOE’s return to long-standing, dysfunctional and bureaucratic policies that negatively impact schools [as] counterproductive. Principals, schools, and teachers must make important decisions within the next month, and your continued inaction is hampering their ability to make the right choices for students.”
The letter cites the New York Independent Budget Office’s identification of “$761 million in unspent federal funds for Fiscal Year 2022 and $38.1 million from Fiscal Year 2021”, funding that the Council demands be used to restore school budgets.
Also highlighted in the letter by the councilmembers, there are “reports of DOE removing funding from individual schools, unrelated to the city budget is further evidence of its harmful policies,” which points to some discrepancies in the level of funding being reported as school budget cuts.
For more coverage of New York City school budgets, head to amNY.com.
“DOE has indicated a gap in school budgets of approximately $215 million, barely 0.06% of the agency’s $37.6 billion budget,” the letter said. “Despite differing amounts of funding being reported as cut from schools by DOE, indicating even greater reductions and the policy-driven nature of school budgets, the solution remains the same. DOE’s numbers are not adding up, and it seems to be using the city budget as a smokescreen to evade responsibility for its policies that undermine support for schools.”
Back in June, the Council passed the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) with the agreement that the city would invest over $700 million more in city funding for the DOE than in the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22).
Although the preliminary budget did indicate that spending on school budgets would change or fluctuate due to enrollment – including increased funding for schools and reduced funding for others – there was an overall lack of transparency regarding the impact on individual schools, federal stimulus funds and other concerns.
The newly discovered unspent funds and reports of additional school budget cuts contradicts the DOE’s promise during the city budget process that enrollment changes to school budgets would lead to a gap in funding of $215 million, leading to the cut of many beloved and necessary public school programs.
“As a DOE music educator and the proud parent of three daughters enrolled in NYC public schools, the mayor’s cuts to schools affect me both as a parent and as an educator,” said Paul Trust, a Brooklyn teacher and parent of children in Queens public schools. “The school where I have taught students will be losing our music program, which is an integral part of the school’s culture.”
“My daughter’s school will be losing a guidance counselor and classroom teacher, leading to increases in class sizes and a decrease in the emotional care many students require. I am imploring the mayor, chancellor and DOE to restore school budgets, so our students are provided with the support and programs they desperately need.”
A spokesperson from city hall provided a comment to amNew York Metro clarifying information about the budget.
“Make no mistake, this is the same budget the City Council held hearings about, reviewed, and then voted to pass,” the spokesperson said July 14. “As was reflected during the budget process, there are more city funds in DOE’s FY23 budget than last fiscal year. While enrollment in public schools dropped, the city has maintained the unprecedented commitment to keep every school from every zip code at 100% of Fair Student Funding. Chancellor Banks committed to launching a deliberative, thorough look at the city’s Fair Student Funding formula, and we are making good on that promise. The DOE concluded the planning stages and will soon begin inviting participants and meeting in the next several weeks.”
Last updated: 7/14/2022 10:39 am