Four New York City parents and NYC Department of Education teachers filed a lawsuit with the New York Supreme Court requesting a temporary restraining order in order to stop the $200 million budget cuts Mayor Eric Adams made to their public schools.
The lawsuit highlights how NYS Education Law has a clear mandated process by which the NYC Board of Education must vote on to approve an education budget prior to a City Council vote.
However, in this case, the NYC City Council voted to adopt the city’s executive budget on June 13, which was 10 days before the Board of Education made their vote.
The lawsuit is requesting a City Council revote to ensure the process is followed in accordance to the law, and that the Council has a full opportunity to consider their vote following the testimony of nearly 70 parents and educators.
The plaintiffs include Melanie Kottler, a parent with a rising 2nd grader at PS 169 in Sunset Park, a school with a large number of students with special needs and English Language Learners, which as of July 14, will have its Galaxy budget reduced by millions of dollars compared to this year; Sarah Brooks, a special education/ICT teacher at PS 169, who reported that the school will lose paraprofessionals, afterschool programming, school trips, and possibly their school counselor as well; Tamara Tucker is a parent of two children at PS 125 in Harlem, a high-poverty school which is facing the loss of its arts programs and an increase in class sizes due to cuts of hundreds of thousands of dollars; Paul Trust, a music teacher who has worked at his school since 2005, PS 39 in Brooklyn which is losing its entire music program because of more than a half million dollars in cuts.
Instead of proceeding with the normal accordance of the law, Schools Chancellor David C. Banks issued an “emergency declaration” on May 31, in order to adopt the budget without an Board of Education vote – despite the fact that no apparent emergency existed at the time.
“The budget cuts will cause all the students at PS 169 to suffer,” said plaintiff Sarah Brooks in a July 18 statement. “They will lose out on specialized instruction, mental and academic supports, and the vital opportunity to learn outside of the confines of their own neighborhoods. The Special Education program will be markedly and significantly impaired. Our students deserve more from their schools.”
Parents involved with the lawsuit also emphasized how important restoring funding was for their children – especially during the current economic crisis.
“Everyone at PS 125 has already been stretched so thin, and this will only become worse in light of the budget cuts for this upcoming year,” said another plaintiff, Tamara Tucker. “The students are going to be the ones who will bear the brunt of this poor decision. The formula that is used to calculate school budgets is fundamentally broken and does not account for the actual needs of schools. It is not fair and is not benefiting students in any way. Every child should have art, music, and enrichment classes. These subjects are part of a well-rounded education and bring joy and diverse perspectives to children of all ages.”
After this story went live on amNY, Jonah Allon, the mayor’s deputy press secretary, issued this statement: “Since day one, the Adams administration has been committed to uplifting students throughout the five boroughs. 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. We are reviewing the lawsuit.”
Judge Lyle Frank of the New York State Supreme Court ruled Aug 4 to continue the temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the DOE from making cuts to school funding, and also ruled for a City Council revote on the NYC school budget.
“On behalf of the petitioners who represent the parents and teachers of NYC public school children, we are gratified that Judge Frank ruled this morning that the City Council can have a revote on the education budget,” said Laura D. Barbieri, Special Council for Advocates for Justice in a statement Aug 4. “He was clear that the repeated use of Emergency Declarations by the Chancellor was invalid, and thus the order of votes by the Council and the PEP violated state law. If the city appeals this decision, this will only cause further delay before schools have the full budgets they need and deserve.”
Last updated 8/4/2022 1:30 PM