NYC Moves Forward With $215M In School Cuts Despite Last-Minute Pushback

New York Daily News/TNS

PS 215, Morris H. Weiss School, in Brooklyn, NY. (123rf)

NEW YORK — The New York City budget deal between Mayor Eric Adams and the City Council unveiled Friday includes $215 million in cuts to school budgets, despite a flurry of last-minute concern about the slashes from Council members, educators and union officials.

Just one day earlier, a Council source told the Daily News that lawmakers were locked in a “stalemate” with Mayor Adams over the proposed cuts to the budgets of schools that lost enrollment during the pandemic.

But in the final budget deal introduced Friday, the $215 million trim was left untouched.

“We had a major drop in student population in our Department of Education,” Adams said, referring to a plunge in K-12 students of more than 70,000 between 2020 and 2022 alone. “We’re not cutting,” Adams claimed, “we’re adjusting the amount based on the student population.”

But for educators and families who saw school budgets come out this week at significantly lower levels than last year, the financial losses are unmistakable.

“The mayor isn’t allowing any room for extras in this bare-bones budget. He’s trimming out the vital programs that meet our kids where they’re at like small-group instruction, sports and arts programs,” said Tangie Murray, a parent and PTA co-president at Middle School 839 in Brooklyn, where the school is projecting a budgetary loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The cuts have been public since Mayor Adams’ preliminary budget in February, but backlash only began to mount this week, after individual school budgets were released.

The Council did not make the school cuts a major priority in budget talks until this week either, according to two sources close to the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Council members also did not ask to reverse the cuts in their official budget response in April.

The DOE is still using $160 million in federal funds to soften the financial blow this year. Schools Chancellor David Banks argued that the city will eventually have to adjust budgets to account for enrollment losses, and that “we owe it to our current and future students not to impose steep, drastic reductions in funding when” the federal stimulus money runs out in two years.

School budgets are adjusted in the winter based on updated enrollment numbers, but principals have to make decisions about staffing before then.

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